A/N:Merlin took over my brain. And it's all Arithilim and Jusmine's fault. *glare* But, good for you, as you now have fic! So, quite dark, and rating is for later chapters, but please, enjoy. Hurrah! And a bottle over the head! ^_^ So, prologue is set pre-show, but the rest of the story is set after it.
Thanks goes to Jusmine for the awesome beta job.
Summary: Merlin pushed away a dark past when he came to Camelot. Now it's back, in Camelot, with raging hunger and even stronger lust – and focused in on Merlin. M for later chapters. Eventual Merlin/Arthur. Warnings through entire first season.
Hunith tended to the small fire with worry as she waited for Merlin to return, hating what he was doing, and despising the fact she couldn't really do anything about it.
They were so desperate. She looked out the window towards their failing crops with worry sighed. All his gifts, and they were still in this situation.
She heard dragging footsteps outside, and immediately got up, opening the meager door, and gasping.
"Hello, Mother," he mumbled, stumbling inside, which let Hunith see all the more clearly – and nearly cry, too.
Merlin's clothes were all torn up, his jacket nearly hanging off his shoulders than his arms, and his shirt just rags. He had a scrape along his right brow and jaw, and a bruise on the same eye, and the other jaw line. She could see black and blue, and red, on his chest and legs through the torn rags which had once been his clothes.
Her boy set a bag down on the table, opening it, and tipping it up. Several handfuls of different coins fell out and clattered to the table.
"Don't cry, Mother," he said, and she smiled, barely holding back tears. She knew he could sometimes sense emotions with his magic, and yet it never disturbed her as much as she thought it should.
"You're my baby, and you're being hurt," she said by way of explanation, wrapping her arms around him carefully.
"I'm not a baby, Mother," Merlin said, but eased into her gentle embrace, before wincing and pushing away, and sitting down on the stool, quickly dividing up the money.
"This is for Will…for Angus and Coleen…for the healer…and this is for Dara and her daughter…" he pushed aside the last, and of course equal, portion. "And this is for us."
She sighed. "I'll go give these off…and I will take some of our's to the healer, and get something for your wounds."
"They are not wounds, Mother, merely…minor injuries," he said.
She sighed, her breath shaking. "And I know where they came from, Merlin."
Merlin shut his eyes. She knew that he'd done his best to hide it, but she'd found out quickly enough. And he did his best to brush it off, now, but he was her baby, and it hurt every time.
"Mother…please…just give out the money. Quietly, please. I can take care of myself – I have enough healing balm for tonight."
She nodded, and sighed, remembering the amounts and portions, before putting them all into the bag and quietly slipping out, letting Merlin attend to himself in privacy.
Merlin, for his part, sighed in relief when she left, pulling off his shirt and fighting the urge to cringe away from himself. There were some things he had to take care of before his mother got back.
For one thing, he pulled out the other, smaller amount of money – another portion of it from the bag, much smaller but still held back – and quickly crawled over to the corner of their hut. Using his magic, he moved the small table to the side, and the corner of the floor underneath peeled away, some of the dirt floating in the air as he pulled out a small box. Opening it quickly, he dumped in just a few coins – it wasn't much he'd held back, but he had a lot of savings in this box. If something ever happened to him, his mother would be all right.
As soon as that was finished, he put everything back. It would take a normal person some physical strength and a shovel to find it – which was why no one would suspect Merlin of putting it there. He was fast and nimble, but never quite 'strong'.
Done with that, he went back towards where he discarded his shirt, and set to cleaning himself so's to worry his mother just a little less.
For his torso, he grabbed a bowl of water, though cold, and a rag, and quickly cleaned off as much blood as he could.
He also peeled off the candle wax, which hurt incredibly, but he couldn't just reveal to his mother that he was covered in candle wax because of Lord Cain's perversions.
At last, he was clean. He still looked horrible, but at least that part was taken care of. He pulled the torn shirt on, quickly, not wanting to become completely nude just yet.
It was a little hard, peeling off his trousers and underclothes, but he managed, wincing at the sight he made in the firelight.
Various dried up fluids crusted over his lower body. Tonight, he'd only had to serve Lord Cain, Lady Eurys, and two other raunchy men – men who had the blood and the money to be knights, but not the skill. However, that still left quite a bit of his legs, especially inside his thighs, disgustingly crusted over. Unfortunately, his hips and waist were also victims of this abuse and perversion.
He winced – these areas were also the most heavily bruised areas – and quickly set about cleaning himself off, hating himself and what he did in desperation all the while.
Luckily, it didn't take too long to finish, and as soon as he did, he pulled his trousers back on, before pulling off his shirt, again – now that he was more presentable, relatively speaking – and stood up, pulling out the clay jar of healing ointment.
He knew it worked well – the recipe was from his uncle, who was the court physician off in Camelot – and it was a bit of a 'heal all' ointment. But it also worked alarmingly well with his magic – he could make his healing faster, if he put his mind to it.
Upside: he could get better much faster, usually by morning, or midday or so.
Downside: this made him available to work more knights out in that damned tavern.
But, quite frankly, they needed the money. Desperately. He'd put up with Lord Cain if need be, to feed himself and the few other families close to himself and his mother.
He pushed the magic, feeling it pulse in his fingertips as he applied the balm, and it was still tingling long after his touch left wherever he put the balm.
His head snapped up to see Will in the doorway, before someone pushed him from outside – his mother.
Both Will and his mother looked extraordinarily sympathetic and hurt as they took in the sight of Merlin by the fire, tending to himself.
Not like he wasn't used to it, when both his mother and Will were called away for village duties.
And looks on their faces also made him incredibly glad that he'd cleaned himself up.
"You don't have to do that, Merlin," his mother said immediately, falling to her knees beside him and immediately taking over, before she frowned even more and asked, "How did you…get burned?"
"Was it that Lord Cain bastard?" Will asked. Merlin just nodded. "How does he…why…anyway?"
"You don't want to know," Merlin said. "Really, you don't."
His mother just let a single tear fall free, but quickly wiped it away and set about to take over applying the ointment over Merlin's injuries, while Merlin would just touch them with slightly glowing fingers to get that helpful bit of magic.
Will sat down on Merlin's other side. "Listen, Merlin…thank you, for the money. Angus and Coleen are grateful, too, and wish you well."
"I'm still pissed off at you for telling them about this, by the way," Merlin said.
"At least he didn't say a word about the magic," his mother tisked.
"I'm not going to rat him out, Hunith!" Will said. "Come on, Merlin's my best friend – I'd never do that to him."
Merlin just took another deep breath, and said, "Thanks, Will."
Merlin shut his eyes, after that, dropping his face and letting his hair cover his eyes. He wondered if he should tell them that Lord Cain could do magic, too, then decided against it. That would only make them worry all the more.
Very soon, his torso was done, and his mother sighed as she looked towards his legs, before simply handing the jar towards Will and slipping off behind the curtain, with a shaky, "Good night, boys."
"Good night, Mother."
"Good night, Hunith."
Smiling at her, Merlin waited until her breathing evened out, before turning to Will, who held up the clay jar. "Ready?"
Merlin sighed and nodded, pulling on his shirt – he wanted at least some illusion of a shred of dignity – and pulled off his trousers, until he was nude from the waist down, again, and lay down, legs somewhat spread, as Will started treating him there, like his mother had just done.
"I can do this myself, you know," Merlin said, though keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling.
"I know," Will said. "But…you're doing all this so the rest of us don't have to. I have to do something to make up for it."
"Just keep remembering to bring me some of that beer from your dad's old still and we'll call it even," Merlin said, jokingly.
"I have a few bottles ready, right now," Will said. "After this, I'll go bring some – I think we could both use it."
Surprised, Merlin propped himself up to look at Will. "What happened to me 'having too much'?"
"With what you're doing every night, I think you deserve at least some, even if you shouldn't have too much," Will said, hesitating a moment as he got closer and closer to Merlin's groin, but kept going, anyway.
At first, this sort of thing had been awkward, but experience and practice quickly led to it being much easier between the two of them. They'd seen in each other in the skin all their lives, but caring for each other, or at least Will caring for Merlin, like this…
"Thanks," Merlin said, with a smile, before laying back down.
They stayed silent while Will treated his front, but when Merlin had to turn over, putting his forehead in his folded arms, and Will hissed at the sight of Merlin's bum, conversation resumed, and in a far more painful direction.
"These bruises are brutal," Will said. "They're almost as bad as the ones on your wrists."
"I know," Merlin said. "Just put on the ointment and let's get this over with."
"Right…but seriously, these burns…"
"Lord Cain is a very perverted bastard – let's just leave it at that, please?"
"How, Merlin?" Will asked, pausing for a moment as he looked over these analytically. "I mean, I know you told me about the candle wax and all, but…these almost look like…well, definitely not candle wax, or candle burns…they almost look like…fire pokers!"
Merlin took in a shaky breath. "Leave it, Will."
"I said leave it."
Even as Will started rubbing in the healing paste again, he asked desperately, "Is that man using iron pokers or something on you?"
"He's magic, all right?" Merlin said, looking up from the safety and shelter of his folded arms. "I…when you're magic, and strong enough, and someone else is also magically strong enough, you can feel it. He felt that I was magic, and I him. He pays me extra to let him use magic on me, all right?"
There was silence, before Will said, "So he's like you?"
Turning back to rest his chin on his folded arms, he said, "I don't know. I was born this way – I don't know if he just studied it or was born like this, as well, or what. But he does know what he's doing."
"I know you're powerful, Merlin," Will said. "Probably more than him, right?"
"Yea," Merlin said. This, at least, was true. "But, he still at least knows what he's doing. And besides…like I said, he…pays me."
A few more pauses, before Will said, "You'd been doing more tricks since you started this…"
Merlin swallowed. This was the other reason he didn't want to tell Will or his mother that Lord Cain was a sorcerer, no matter how small or large his magic: they'd put things together, and likely come out with the right conclusion.
"Is money the only thing he's paying you in?"
"Don't lie to me, Merlin!" Will cried out, though very quietly. Merlin hissed as Will pressed down on his calves harshly, and the pressure let up. "I'm sorry, but please, Merlin…what's he…"
Merlin shut his eyes, again, his soul in pain, before opened them and said, "Just a few tricks…mostly fire stuff – he seems particularly good with that element – and they're really small. He shows me something new every time. Part of our little…deal."
"He teaches me these things if I…let him…carry out some of his…well, more…stranger perversions."
"You mean the more painful ones?" Will asked.
Merlin shut his eyes and kept them shut, this time. "Yes."
More silence, as Will finished up and said, "You can add your magic touch, now."
Nodding, Merlin sat up and spread some magic over his injuries, not healing on its own in the slightest, but making the balm work faster. When he was done, he pulled on some new trousers, again, planning to mend the soiled ones later.
"Are you really that desperate to learn magic?" Will asked, as he put away the healing ointment.
"Yes," Merlin said. "You…I…I've been wanting to learn, all my life. I know I could do so much, if only I knew how."
Will sighed. "Just…I'll be right back."
Merlin nodded, sighing in relief at the idea of sweet oblivion coming soon, in the form of ale from Will's old still. Though far from smooth, it saved his sanity, at least in little bits at a time, and it was probably the only thing truly going a long way towards helping him keep his wits about him.
Behind the curtain, Hunith cried silent tears at hearing the truth about her boy.
Merlin groaned, the next morning, or rather, afternoon, his head pounding as he slowly opened his eyes.
Will had apparently covered him with a blanket and gone home…oh, wait – it was the late afternoon, now, almost evening. Damn.
Sighing, Merlin slowly pushed himself up, before his mother gently pushed him back down.
"No," she said. "Rest."
"Merlin, please," she said. "I heard you and Will talking, last night."
He looked at her carefully, his face falling, before he said, "It's all right-"
"No," she said. "It's…it's not."
She paused, as she brought him some water, and bread, bought with the very money Merlin 'earned' last night.
As he slowly ate what little he could – his disgust after a night of working like this, along with the hangover, meant not much – he could see she was thinking deeply about something.
"Your uncle," she said. "Gaius – the one who sent me the recipe for this healing ointment…you know it – he's the court physician in Camelot. For King Uther, himself."
Merlin slowly nodded.
"He also…he's not even remotely powerful, certainly nowhere near you…and it's mostly healing magic that he needs herbs and potions to do, anyway, but…he can do some magic, too."
Merlin's eyes widened as he stared at his mother in shock. "He…really?"
She nodded. "He will know some things he can teach you…or at least know what to do with you, where to send you."
"Wait…" Merlin said. "You want…to…send me to Camelot?"
"To Gaius, yes," she said. "I…you're doing all this, and nearly killing yourself in the process. For what? A few shillings-"
"-hardly just a few-"
"-and some simple magic," she said. "I'm supposed to look after you, and I can't even do that! I…I just…I can't let you do this, anymore, Merlin. I just can't."
Merlin swallowed. "Mother-"
"I will be fine," she said. "I know about the money you hid with magic, in the corner. And Will and the others…the money will last, for us, until the new crop comes in. And it has been raining plentifully, and it should continue…we will be much better off, this year. But I can't let you keep hurting yourself."
He leaned his head into her lap, as he did as a child, and said, "All right."
She sighed in relief at his little amount of struggle. But really, he was being selfish – he just wanted to get away from all this.
"Go to sleep, now, Merlin," she said. "I expect after all that work and ale, last night, you need it."
"I've already slept the day away."
"Oh, stop being so noble," she said. "You deserve some sleep. And you need it."
He almost put up a fight, but she was right, as most mothers usually were – his eyes were drooping as she spoke, and he just nodded and drifted off.
For a while, Hunith continued to just sit there and watch her baby, before gently laying his head back down, and washing away the bowl and cup, looking up only when she realized just how dark it was.
Lighting the fire, and then a candle, she grabbed what little supplies she had, and quickly set about to penning a letter.
A/N: And the rest…is history. Or at least, it's TV Show material. :D Don't worry, this is just the prologue – it's not even close to over.