Disclaimer: I love Merlin, but that doesn't mean I own it. Pure fan love here.
Story: This was not the future the legends had been carved from. Far from it. And as Merlin watched the world burn, she felt nothing but apathy. For Arthur, it was all worth it. Conspiracies, lies, and half-truths are constructed in a masterful web that surprisingly Merlin and Uther are in the middle of. A girl's devotion and what a father is willing to do for his son.
Set as an AU, genderbending fic.
Spoilers: From episode S2.2 ("The Once and Future Queen") and mentions of future chapters.
Warnings: Semi-dark!Merlin, Cunning!Ruthless!Uther, Suspicious!Observant!Arthur, and the rest will be drawn into the chaos.
Pairings: Merlin/Arthur, Gwen/Lancelot, Morgana/?, heavily implied past-Uther/Ingraine, one-sided Gwen/Merlin, one-sided Morgana/Merlin, slight Edwin/Merlin (mostly one-sided), slight Nimueh/Merlin (mostly one-sided)...

The Day the Whole World Went Away
Chapter Fifteen: The Once and Future High Sorceress

It wasn't merely that her mind had been plagued by the recent past. It was that everything was coming together and collapsing around her, and she was just quietly letting it.

Sigan still whispered into her ear from time to time, but she forced herself to the present. She should've known he would reattach a piece of his soul to hers, just like he had in her childhood. But at least most of him was in that jewel that was once more buried, and he didn't have a physical body.

Still, she herself hadn't truly fully recovered from the ordeal, though she was quiet about it and went about as normal. If anyone were to notice, it would be Uther and Arthur.

When Arthur had taken to ignoring her under Sigan's spell, she'd missed his attention, his love, and just him. So now, even if a bit distant and aloof at times, she sought after him and did whatever he wanted, paying extra attention and care to him. She'd described it like a reaction to an addiction. She needed Arthur and when he'd ignored her for so long, it was like going through withdrawal. And now that he was back, she'd gone to him like she needed another fix. She was okay with that, because she wanted to savor being with him for as long as she could before she had to step aside and let Arthur go.

It was different with Uther. Instead, she'd reverted back to that scared little girl who was afraid of him and of being executed at any moment. So instead of sticking to him like glue like she'd taken to Arthur, she'd avoided the King, only appearing to report on the goings-on.

She knew that was going to haunt her.

Because now she was being summoned.

"You've been avoiding me," Uther stated calmly.

She didn't bother denying it.

"Are you…is it about when I was under Sigan's spell?"

Merlin averted her eyes away from him, giving him his answer silently.

"You know I would never have done any of that willingly! Please, Merlin! Tell me you believe me!" Hearing the sincere grief in his voice made her wince, but the fear and resignation had all been too real back then.

He got up from his throne abruptly, heading over to her quickly and she involuntarily flinched. He saw and he froze in his tracks, a stab of pain shooting through him. He proceeded more cautiously, but he didn't back down. He surprised her when he went on his knees in front of her, and took her hands in his, bowing his head over them.

She shivered. Too alike from that horrid nightmare.

But then shock ruled over her once more, surprised that Uther would actually go on his knees in front of her and act as submissively as he was. And again…for her.

"I told you I would go on my knees and beg you. I beg you for forgiveness. I beg you for your return to my side and your companionship. I beg you for your advice and comfort. I beg…" he faltered and looked up, pleading with his eyes. "I beg for my daughter."

She hesitantly hit his head lightly, but she made the effort because Uther was being sincere and this was really rare of him to show any kind of emotion or admitting how he felt.

The King bowed down for no one. And yet here he was, on his knees for her.

"Idiot. Just say you missed me. You don't have to go overboard," she joked weakly. He was still looking solemnly at her so she sighed and allowed him to tentatively hug her, freezing up only slightly but refusing to show any other signs of fear for his sake. "I know you wouldn't have done any of that, but it didn't change that it happened and it was yours and Arthur's faces I saw. It may have been Sigan behind it all, but I saw you and Arthur. And that won't change. Ever," she reluctantly admitted.

Uther was silent.

"I swear on my son's life, let it be binding, that I will not or ever harm Merlin Ambrosius, of my own volition and or with the intent of harm. If I am under the enchantment of another or I need to act as so, then I am exempt. So shall I swear by the roots of Gaia, and my life is forfeit if I dare rescind my word in any way with the intent of harm," and Merlin glowed briefly gold before the glow turned into a small string of golden light wrapped around Uther's body, briefly tightening and then disappearing into sparkles that disintegrated into the air.

Merlin stumbled away from his embrace, gaping at him.

"W-what? How? Magic can't be used by those who don't have magic in them. The potion you sometimes brew for me doesn't count because magic really isn't required for it; some of the ingredients are already magical. But you…you said an Oath…"

"I didn't know how else to convince you. So I went to Gaius for help. He'd said that as long as the person I'd made the oath to was a magic-user then I would be able to do it. A typical oath has the oath taker's magic monitoring them, but in this case I 'borrowed' some of your magic to take the oath and that piece of your magic will be the one monitoring me and ready to enact the consequence if I fail to uphold my sworn oath. I just had to reword it to fit my non-magical heritage…"

"Never mind how impossible and incredulous that sounds, but…about your rewording. On Arthur's life…?"

Uther nodded solemnly, "You know how important he is to either of us, so you know how serious I am about my oath. And um…was I right to swear by Gaia or should I have sworn by Camelot?"

"No, not Camelot. The Oath itself is still magical and magic being performed, so swearing by Gaia is correct. But…do you know how stupid that was, to swear a binding magical Oath? That was incredibly dangerous, Uther. With your misfortune and if you were to lose your temper, the Oath will still be upheld. You were smart to include the exceptions. Still, Oaths are ancient magic. Not too many who practice magic now know about it –not unless they were of the Old Religion or were taught by someone of the Old Religion. How would you know of them anyway?"

Uther shrugged uncomfortably, "When…Nimueh was here, as Court Sorceress, she made many visiting warlocks swear on their magic to not harm myself or Ingraine, explaining much of your customs to us while she was in our service. Funny how she never made those oaths."

"I see," but Merlin really was oddly completely calm and secure –much different than when she'd first entered.

"Are you…are you still unsatisfied?" he asked hesitantly.

"No. I think I'll be okay. But…you know you're even more of a hypocrite now."

"Sacrifices to be made, darling."

It was such an Uther thing to say, in his usual blunt and abrasive manner. But it was also bittersweet, in its reminder of a future and an Uther that Merlin would've liked to have stayed with and lived in.

But she gave him a confident and genuine smile, something she hadn't given him for a long time since Sigan.

She left Uther in a better mood than she'd had in days, searching out Arthur and finding the Prince in only his trousers and rummaging through his closet for a shirt.

"You're late, Merlin," but she could hear the smile in his voice.

Instead of greeting him, Merlin quickly turned him around and slammed him against his wardrobe, smirking inwardly at the switch in positions. She followed by pushing her mouth against his, eagerly kissing him and taking charge, keeping her hands against his shoulders to hold him there and surprising him with her strength. After aggressively kissing him, she moved her mouth to tenderly kiss his neck, letting him grab her hips and haul her up. She wrapped her legs around his waist, allowing him to carry her to his bed.

He laid her down reverently, and went back to kissing her. But instead of upping the passion, he slowed down and languidly kissed her over and over. Then he pulled back and looked at her tenderly.

"Hey, hey. What's the rush, sweetheart?" he asked softly.

She swallowed, gazing at him and trying to brand his loving expression in her mind.

Gwen and Lancelot would never happen because Merlin would be there to make sure of it. Gwen wasn't magical, so no one would rebel against one holding so much power in a seat of more power. And the prejudices towards a magical person such as herself would never haunt Gwen.

Better a commoner than a sorceress.

So if the difference in social class wasn't a problem, than Gwen would be a perfect substitute, someone who wouldn't manipulate Arthur so readily as Merlin at times was wont to do. Lancelot wouldn't be a problem, not if Merlin was there to tightly control things and keep a watchful eye.

Besides, she didn't know a thing about ruling the kingdom. If she were Queen, she would run it to the ground. Advising Arthur was one thing, helping to rule was another. She wouldn't know what to do in that predicament. That's not including Morgana's vision of Gwen being Queen (she was pointedly ignoring the fact Morgana saw her as Queen as well, in a more recent and updated vision). That vision could still come true and Arthur could still fall in love with the other girl, and Merlin didn't want to get hurt like that. She had to prepare herself for such a time.

And it's not like she could split her attention into so many responsibilities. She was good, but not that good. She couldn't focus on advising and protecting Arthur if she had to focus on the kingdom's welfare as well, and that wasn't adding in the fact that her entire devotion was almost completely dedicated to Arthur and she cared about him above anything else (including the kingdom). Not a very healthy fact for a Queen to have.

"Arthur…just let me love you for as long as we have time," Merlin smiled sadly at him, confusing and alarming him.

"We have all the time in the world," Arthur murmured, trying to be reassuring.

She just pulled him down and buried her face into his neck, inhaling his scent and wanting to keep it with her forever.

She never wanted to let Arthur go.

The next day found Merlin listening to Arthur rant to her in indignation about that day's jousting practice. Having realized that he was being treated differently because he was Prince, Arthur was outraged and eager to prove he could win the tournament without special treatment. Normally, Merlin would listen with half an ear and roll her eyes at him (and conveniently remind him about Valiant and that tournament), but she was still in that same mood from yesterday. So instead, she listened and smiled in support and gentleness.

It was only when Arthur actually came up with a plan and had told her all about it that she started grimacing and had her mind racing to find a way to dissuade him.

But he looked so eager and she wanted him to cheer up…

It was too late anyway, with Merlin still torn over the issue, when Arthur approached Uther and began spouting about some magical beast roaming the nearby woods.

"It has the body of a lion, wings of an eagle, and the face of a bear!" Arthur announced dramatically, and Merlin stifled a laugh and tried to refrain from face palming.

However, she did sweatdrop and her lips were twitching upwards suspiciously.

Declaring that he would be leaving the next day and missing the tournament, Arthur left to get ready while Merlin stayed behind and stared down the King.

"What is he up to?" Uther twitched.

Merlin finally let out a small snicker, before explaining his son's plans.

"Please watch out for my fool of a son and make sure he doesn't try to do anything more idiotic," Uther grumbled.

She gave him a mock salute, leaving him behind to go after Arthur. Settling things so that they could stay with Gwen in incognito, Merlin figured it was going to be a long stay and hoped they wouldn't burden Gwen too much.

"This is a little awkward," Merlin muttered, sitting at Gwen's table, across from Arthur.

Arthur hummed happily.

They were eating chicken together, alone in Gwen's quaint house and it all seemed very domestic in a commoner sort of way. Arthur had, unknowing to Merlin, lent a guest room to Gwen to use while the two of them stayed there and had it excused as the maid being too busy with her duties, whenever Merlin asked about the other girl's absence in her own home.

"Do you like the chicken?" Merlin asked, cringing in worry.

"I love it," Arthur said pleased. "And especially because it was made by you. Not bad cooking skills, Merlin. Maybe I should make you my cook instead of my manservant."

Merlin smirked, "Sounds good. Less duties to do, less time with you."

"Nope, never mind. I was just joking," Arthur said hurriedly.

Merlin laughed and Arthur grinned along, happy to see Merlin less in an odd mood like she's been. Though she had become more affectionate and willing to be with him lately, it had also worried him because of the accompanying sorrow and longing mood that she was usually in. He was happy that she was more affectionate, but not at the cost of her happiness.

"I just want you happy, you know that?" Arthur told her.

She blinked and blushed, smiling back contentedly at him.

Unfortunately, that was when Gwen decided to interrupt, causing Merlin to be worried and Arthur to be irritated at the spoiled mood and ruined moment, though he became worried as well when he saw how serious Gwen looked.

"I'm sorry to interrupt anything, but this is from the King. He says it's urgent, Merlin," she handed a folded piece of parchment towards the sorceress.

Merlin tentatively took it, scanning the contents and stiffening up with each word.

Arthur in danger. See me now.

She grimaced and stood up abruptly.

"What's wrong?" Arthur asked in alarm.

Merlin hesitated, but just looked at him seriously and silently communicated her pleads to him. He clenched his jaw, but nodded in understanding, becoming reluctantly used to being on the outside while being in the know. Still, just because he wasn't in the loop didn't mean he hadn't caught on. Just by what he saw, he could tell that something was afoot and he had to be on his toes. He wasn't completely going to be left out, and he definitely would make sure of that.

"I'll be right back. Gwen, could you stay here and keep Arthur company while I'm gone?" she asked, trying not to sound too obvious about her underlining reason why she asked.

Gwen nodded, and Arthur forced himself not to pout. Even if Merlin had expected something, anything out of this little moment –she would be sadly mistaken. Instead, the two worried over her and speculated on what could be going on and if Arthur had something to do about it.

In the meantime, Merlin had rushed to Uther's side, who was busy pacing anxiously in his rooms.

"What's going on, Uther?"

The King's face screwed up upsettingly, but he willed himself to speak.

"There is an assassin after Arthur, named Myror. He's highly renowned in that realm of expertise and I worry for Arthur's safety. King Odin has sent him in response to Arthur's killing of his son in a duel. I fear the assassin is already here."

"Damn," Merlin pursed her lips. "What a pain."

Uther nodded in agreement, procuring something from the side and setting it down gently onto the table. Merlin stared in surprise.

"What on earth, Uther?"

He shrugged, "Lemon pie to cheer you up and motivate you for this? I'm working on the chocolate pie, but I think that will be awhile before I can correctly reproduce the delicacy from the future."

Merlin snorted, but happily dug in, needing the comfort food.

"I cooked that myself, you know. So do a good job and make sure Arthur's safe and alive."

"Will do, Captain," Merlin sing songed, already happy with the pie and ready to take on this assassin.

The next morning, at the tournament, William the Farmer (funny guy, he is) came back into the tent and they helped take off his armor. Right before Arthur was about to put it on, Merlin stopped him and smiled encouragingly.

She kissed him in front of both Gwen and William, surprising but making Arthur happy. Pulling back, Merlin kept her smile on her face.

"For luck," she told him.

And then she decked him right at the temple, knocking him out.

The other two in the tent gaped at her, and she just shrugged at them.

"Stay in the tent with him, will you? I have business to take care of, trash to take out," she said nonchalantly, shrugging on the armor.

After a second, Gwen stumbled forward and fumbled to help her with the armor, as William grabbed Arthur and hauled him over to a safer area for him to lie down at.

"Do I want to know, Merlin?" Gwen asked her friend.

"Nah, I don't think so," Merlin said. "Just take care of Arthur for me."

"Alright. Be safe," Gwen went on the tip of her toes and kissed her cheek, and Merlin smiled awkwardly at her.

"Wish me luck!" Merlin waved behind her, putting on the helmet before going out of the tent.

Gwen sighed, "I wish I could have given her a good luck kiss too."

William just stared at her strangely.

Merlin, however, was very nervous. She'd never jousted before and the fact was, she was going to be up against an assassin. A highly regarded and trained assassin. And she was going to have to take care of him. With a helmet that didn't fit on her at all, and was so loose it felt like it was about to fall off at any second.

Ah, crap.

You see, she figured that Myror would try something like this. Kill Arthur's last opponent and take his place. That's why she'd knocked Arthur out and decided to take his place. Looking back now, she wasn't so sure she could do this or that this was such a good idea.

Getting onto Arthur's horse, Merlin prayed to Gaia and swallowed down her nervousness. She'd hoped that her sword skills would help, but jousting was vastly different than fighting with a sword. She wasn't swinging the damn thing around.

The time came and when she was confronted with the assassin, which she was completely right about (seeing that she saw the body in the other tent and this guy was aiming to kill), she got in a lucky shot before the assassin could actually get her and she winced at the fatal jab she gave him. She knocked him right off with the force of the blow, and she slowed her horse down, hearing wild cheering and applause.

Then her helmet came off.

The crowd silenced and stared, and she just laughed nervously.

"Ah, Sir William of Daira…has a sprained wrist…so I, ah…substituted…for him," she explained haltingly, her voice carrying over the silence.

The crowd erupted into cheers again and she sweatdropped. She saw Morgana clapping enthusiastically, while Uther was stuck frozen with his lips in between a smile and twitching like he either wanted to exasperatedly grimace or laugh.

The next day, after the commotion was just beginning to die down about a servant winning the tournament, Arthur was called to see his father. He still rubbed his aching head occasionally, missing more Merlin nursing him back to health and being sweet with him in apology than any actual pain left. His pride was more hurt than anything, but that was soothed over with her kisses.

"Father, you called?" Arthur grumbled, wishing he was back in his room.

Uther smirked at his son teasingly, "Feeling better yet? Or is your head still hurting?"

Arthur grumbled, "Yeah, yeah. Laugh all you want. So tell me why you're calling me when I could be with Merlin?"

Uther rolled his eyes, "She won't be there when you go back."

Arthur glared at him suspiciously, refusing to pout in front of his father.

"Why? Where'd she go?"

"She's gone to do something for me," Uther waved it off dismissively, furthering Arthur's irritation. "No, I want to give this to you."

Then his father pulled out a cerulean cloth-covered object, unwrapping it to reveal a beautiful crafted glass sword. Arthur's mouth went dry and he was filled with confusion.

"This was your mother's," Uther murmured. "And it is yours to give to Merlin as a betrothal gift."

He handed it over carefully to his son with both hands, and Arthur tentatively accepted with both hands also stretched out.

"See to it she receives it when you think the time is right."

Arthur nodded and hoped he could give it to her soon.

And while those two had that moment, Merlin was currently facing King Odin in the neighboring kingdom, a sneer plastered on her face as she had Uther's sword placed casually and yet somehow threateningly on her lap, as she sat on the King's throne. King Odin was sweating, backed against the wall. Merlin just smiled cruelly and nimbly got off the throne, stalking after her prey like a predator.

"Try that again, King Odin, and I shall come after you with a knife to your neck."

King Odin nodded hurriedly.

Merlin just tapped his nose with the flat of the sword playfully, in an ironic mocking way.

Started 12/30/09 –Completed 9/3/10

A/n: Short and sweet. Ugh, too short for me though, looking at it. And it just seems very anticlimactic. So sorry if it doesn't really satisfy you all. At least there's Merthur fluff, right? And sorry it took so long. I really didn't care for episode 2, and was kind of floundering and being unmotivated on what to do with it. It's been awhile since I saw that episode either, and I didn't even want to rewatch it to finish this chapter. It was just very boring and dry for me (and I didn't care for the Arthur/Gwen moments either –too quick and undeveloped, as I keep saying, and I don't care for them together). The best part of the episode was 'Sir William'. So this chapter is probably missing bunches of the episode content and quotes itself. Bleh. (pouts)

The semi/parallel sequel to this is out, if you haven't checked it out already. It's called The Day the Whole World Slept.

And I'm so, so sorry! I really love you all and that you guys love this so much. It's late and I'm being so lazy that I can't even reply to all of you like I usually do! I'm so sorry again! Please forgive me! Just know that I love you all as well!