A/N: So, anyone out here know Latin? If I botch anything up, let me know. Anyway, in case you haven't guessed, this story's going to have a lot of dub-con (at least), so this is the chapter where it starts.
Also – spoilers for Season 2, though I'm basically going to pretend some episodes just never happened. You'll figure it out as you go along.
Beta'd by the lovely Jusmine.
The stable door behind Merlin opened. Rolling his eyes, he turned around to ask the stable-boy what he wanted-
And promptly froze.
Closing and locking the door behind him, Cain turned around, and with a smirk on his face, said, "Hello, Merlin."
For a moment, Merlin stared in shock. What the hell-when had Cain seen him? It wasn't… he couldn't…
"Hello," Merlin said, numbly, fingers clenching tightly around the brush in his hands.
Cain tilted his head, looking at Merlin's hand around the brush, before raising his hand towards the brush and muttering, "Labora."
His brown eyes flashed gold, and Merlin let go of the brush as it started to groom the horse on its own.
"I know you don't need spells for this, Merlin," Cain said idly. "So I must ask, have you forgotten these so soon? Your magic?"
Swallowing, Merlin reminded himself of all the mind games Cain loved to play and how Merlin used to resist them, and said, "It's relaxing to do by hand."
Cain smiled in amusement as he said, "I'm surprised – magic used to relax you so much."
Merlin just nodded, before grabbing the brush, and pushing his own magic through to override the spell, knowing his eyes would flash gold as he did so.
Cain just raised his chin in speculation, and Merlin turned back to the horse, reminding himself to focus. He knew how much Cain would be focused – his single-minded determination could be alarming, at times.
"What do you want, Cain?" Merlin asked. The best way to beat Cain at these mind games was by blunt force – refusing to play his games, his rules.
"Never one to beat around the bush," Cain said, idly. "Can't you guess?"
"No," Merlin said, flatly, even though he could. "I've never played your stupid mind games before, Cain, and I'm not starting now."
The man sighed. "Of course. Well, it's simple: I want you."
Merlin didn't freeze, this time, just kept working as he said, "No."
"No?" Cain said, somewhat surprised.
"I don't fuck for a coin, anymore," Merlin said. "Or for anything else."
"I get paid well enough as a servant," Merlin continued, eyes still on the horse as he moved towards the flank. "Food, a warm place to sleep – everything."
Cain chuckled from behind him. For a moment, Merlin wondered at the wisdom of turning his back on the man – then figured that considering they were sorcerers and all, it wouldn't matter, anyway.
"Well… money isn't the only thing to bargain with," Cain said.
"What are you thinking of?" Merlin asked, fighting to keep his eyes on the horse – and off Cain.
There was a pause, then, "Terge."
The hay started sweeping itself, the dirt started sliding off the walls, the mud backed into its corner, and the dust and muck all swept themselves out under the door.
Merlin blinked as he watched it all happen.
"Ugh… you leave a mess, you know that? Here… terge."
"…there's a spell for cleaning?"
"Yes – useful, really."
"Well, obviously… and, thank you. It'll save me some trouble when I go home. My mother worries a bit too much."
"Your mother has every right to worry. And don't you worry, Merlin – I have plenty more where that came from."
"Thank you, Cain," Merlin said, icily, grip tightening on the brush. "But I have…I have other ways to learn magic, now."
"Oh?" Cain asked, clearly asking him to elaborate.
"Yes," Merlin said, keeping his eyes firmly on the horse's haunches as he switched brushes and started on the tail. "There are quite a few brothels throughout the city, along with plenty of taverns with payable company. They won't be hard to find-"
"I'm not interesting in some half-penny whore from the city," Cain said, bluntly. "You, I'm interested in."
"It's not mutual, I'm afraid," Merlin said, finally looking at him. Cain had that speculative look on his face that always made Merlin feel like a cross between a piece of meat – which he was, at least back then – and a marvel of nature – which he also was. "And like I said – I don't fuck for money, anymore."
"And at all?" Cain asked, again.
"I'm not celibate, either," Merlin said, truthfully, answering no more as he moved to the bay's other side to start the brushing. "Look, milord-"
"My lord?" Cain asked, amused. "I never took you for being… deferential."
Merlin fought the urge to glare and kept his eyes on his brush. "Lord Cain, there are plenty of others who are perfectly willing to take you to their beds. Prince Arthur, for one."
Merlin looked up at him. "I'm his manservant."
Cain raised an eyebrow, surprised and amused. Damn man was never rattled by anything. "The prince's manservant? Well, well, well – you've moved up in the world."
Merlin smiled sarcastically before going back to the calming motions of brushing the horse. "Well – if the Prince is interested in you, you can imagine how the rest of the castle is, if you forget the city."
Cain sighed. "And are any of them magic?"
"You never know," Merlin offered.
"That's not the point," Cain said, eyes suddenly burning into him. Merlin swallowed, freezing for only a moment, before turning his eyes to his hand, brushing the horse. He felt Cain's magic tugging at it, but kept a firm grip on it. "I want you."
"Have you gone deaf in the last year and a half?" he asked, trying desperately to focus on the brushing. He's been around Arthur to get a bit about personal politics, and seeming fearless can be just as powerful as actually being fearless. "I just said-"
"Does the Prince know about your magic?"
This time, Merlin did freeze, staring at his brush.
"I'm going to take that as a… no," Cain said.
Merlin swallowed, and slowly looked up. Looking at Cain, he wondered if this was how a mouse felt to be cornered by a cat.
Oh, great, now he'd never be able to turn into a mouse.
"The prince and I…" Merlin cleared his throat, but Cain just laughed.
"And the king?" he asked. "You know whose word he will take first."
"When it comes to magic, Uther doesn't see rank," Merlin said. "I could reveal you just as easily."
"Ah, yes, he may have me imprisoned immediately… but I am a powerful lord of another kingdom – he would at least have to… investigate."
And Merlin could guess what would happen. "You'd really frame me?"
Cain's slow grin was his answer.
Merlin took a deep breath, then spat, "Áthierre," at his brush, releasing his grip on it as he turned to Cain and crossed his arms, doing his best to remain strong as the stable continued on cleaning itself. Looking Cain in the eye, he asked, "What do you want?"
Cain stepped forward, then again, and Merlin swallowed and leaned back, though he congratulated himself on not actually stepping back. And suddenly, Cain was right before him, around him, his chest pressed flush against Merlin's, their hips pressed together, his hands on Merlin's arms.
Leaning, he tilted his head and said into Merlin's ear, "Guess."
Merlin shut his eyes.
"My chambers. Midnight at the latest, once you are done serving the prince."
"…he sometimes has me stay the night," Merlin said, softly. "In the antechamber."
"Then tomorrow," Cain said silkily. "Come on, now, it will be fun – like old times. Remember?"
Merlin did remember.
He remembered excruciating experiences.
"Cain – it's too tight! Please!"
He remembered being bound to Cain's bed by rope, shackle, and magic alike.
He remembered being carved into, branded, for Cain's strange, sadistic, possessive pleasures.
He remembered crying at times, and remembered being unable to walk without magic for days at a time afterward.
And sometimes being unable to walk even with magic.
But as Cain reached up and stroked Merlin's hair, he also remembered the soothing times he had with this man.
"Mm…mm, Cain, do that again!"
The times where Cain would focus all on him, leaving him wanton and begging on his bed.
"Can you show me that?"
He remembered watching in awe as he would learn simple and stupid but, nonetheless, heartwarming tricks and spells from Cain.
"Look what I did! Look!"
He remembered what it felt like not to be alone.
"I'll…" Merlin swallowed, turned, and pressed his lips against Cain's ear. "I'll be there."
Merlin looked up distractedly. "Hm?"
Gwen rolled her eyes as she and Merlin carried their respective masters' laundry down to the laundry chambers in the bowels of the castle.
"You seem rather…distracted," she said, smiling.
Merlin nodded, giving her his best smile. He knew it would work – he'd had to practice a bunch after recent events. The Questing Beast. Sigan. Aredian. Freya…
He had a lot of practice faking his happiness. And it worked, too.
"Yeah, sorry…Gaius just loading some extra reading on me is all," Merlin said.
"Oh," Gwen said, before shaking her head. "Anyway… did you know that pup you and Morgana took in is a wolf?"
Merlin ducked his head, blushing furiously, while Gwen laughed, winking at Merlin as they entered the laundry room. "Don't worry – I won't tell."
Smiling, Merlin said, "Thanks," as he handed off Arthur's sheets and clothes, before jogging up the castle's many staircases towards Morgana's room.
"Come in!" her voice rang out as she nodded.
Her face fell into an unsettled, speculative look when she saw him, but was quickly schooled into polite happiness as she said, "Merlin!"
"How's the pup?" he asked.
Morgana smiled in the way Merlin knew would be a grin if she weren't such a high noble, and getting up, beckoned him towards the space behind the screen where he and Mordred had hid once before.
There, the little wolf pup was sleeping soundly in the basket. He grew quite fast, and now took up a third of the basket.
"Morgana," Merlin said. "I have too much to do, tonight – look after the little fellow another night? Please?"
Now she really did grin. "Oh, please, Merlin – you don't have to ask, you know I'd love to! Is Arthur being more childish than usual?"
Merlin almost said, yes, but then shook his head and just said, "I'd just put off a bunch of reading Gaius wanted me to have done by tomorrow."
Morgana shook her head.
"Well – good luck, to you. I'll look after him. And – do you mind if we name him Cafall? I just…really like that name."
It was Merlin's turn to grin at her. "Me too."
After a few more pleasantries, most of them concerning the pup – Cafall – Merlin left. Left her rooms, left the castle, left Camelot city.
He mentally prepared himself as he headed for the forest, heading quickly to deal with those errant vampires.
"Remember what I said, Beyla!" Merlin said, as he stepped away from the shadowy safety of the cave and into the sunlight, as he waved to the vampire clan leader.
Fulla, Beyla's adventurous daughter, braved the sunlight and ran out to hug Merlin, as Beyla laughed and said, "Thank you, Merlin Emrys – the warning is well appreciated."
By his waist, Fulla grinned at him. Beyla ran out and ushered her back into the cave before her young skin burned in the sunlight. Then she turned to Merlin.
"And you – you will head back to Camelot?"
Merlin nodded, and Beyla shook her head. "What for? You will be killed there!"
Or worse, Merlin thought, while also thinking, Arthur.
"I'll be fine," Merlin said easily. Really, his lying skills had grown tremendously since he was just another little farm boy. It rather disturbed him, actually. "I have a few things worth… worth living in Camelot for."
Beyla smiled. "Good luck."
"You'd better get back inside," Merlin said, jerking to the skin of her arm already reddening under the sun. Not much longer and it would be smoking. "And – you too. Get out of Camelot."
Merlin left a few minutes after, soaring as a falcon through the trees, before landing in 'his' clearing, and returning to his human form.
For a moment, he crouched there, hands on the earth, simply feeling it, breathing the feeling of life in and out, smiling, before standing up, listening carefully in the distance for any sign of people, then outright grinning at the thought of practicing magic.
He summoned his herb pouch from within the hollow of 'his' tree with magic, just because he could, sparing a glance to triple check he had everything Gaius asked for, before tossing it aside and throwing his hands out to his sides in concentration.
The air around his feet started to swirl, faster and faster, into a stream of air. It died down quickly, and Merlin smiled. Easiest one down.
No words, he told himself as he cupped his hands together before him. Just water.
It took a few moments, but soon, Merlin could see condensation in his hands, then it was a pool of water in his palms, dripping out the gap, but floating around him instead of falling into the ground.
And slowly, more water formed, until Merlin was pouring it into the ring by his feet, smiling at the river of floating water rushing in a circle around him.
After a few more moments, Merlin banished it, watching it disperse into a small fog, a fine mist, then into nothing.
"Two down, two to go," Merlin muttered to himself.
He resisted the urge to say baerne as he cupped his hands again, and simply smiled as the flames slowly appeared, small and flickering, but it strengthened, to that of a torch's fire, powered purely by Merlin's will and raw magic alone, no spell, no enchantment, nothing.
Grinning, Merlin slowly increased it, channeling it outward, and soon, he was in a circle of light and heat.
With a cheeky smile from him, it was gone in a sizzling flash.
"Be nice to me," Merlin muttered, as he held his hands open over the ground.
It was just a few specks of dirt, at first, leaping up, but soon, entire chunks of grass from the circle around him were flying up, and within a few blinks, Merlin had a 'moat' of dirt around him in the sea of grass… which didn't technically make much sense, but Merlin didn't care.
The grass was whirling, faster and faster, into a ring of a blur around him, green on top and brown on bottom.
He shut his eyes as he slowed its circling, and rather than just setting it down, he willed it to return to its original state.
When he opened his eyes, he might as well have not done anything to the ground at all.
"All down!" Merlin cheered to himself, swaying in a mini dance as he summoned his herb pack.
For a moment, he glanced around the clearing curiously, ignoring the feeling he was being watched – there were a variety of woodland animals around and Merlin could probably feel them at this rate – and wondered at the fact that this was the fourth time he'd done this…and still no connection to any element. They were all equally easy for him to master, and none seemed to tug at his heart or his magic in any particular away that was apart from the others.
He sighed, shaking his head in bemusement. Maybe next week.
For now, he shifted into his falcon form – and he still loved the irony of being a merlin, he always would – and grabbed the pack in his claws and flew off towards Camelot.
On a ridge well above the clearing, the man watching crouched down low, only his eyes above the ridge's edge as he watched the sorcerer work his way through the four elements of supporting life.
The boy summoned his pack – and still with magic, the thing flew through the air towards him! – and looked around somewhat curiously…
Did he know he was being watched?
The boy sighed, shaking his head to himself, and the man watching was fairly sure the boy was still oblivious, thinking about his magic, perhaps. Planning something, maybe? What would he plot, though – the boy seemed more interested in playing with his magic rather than trying to truly utilize it as a weapon.
As the sorcerer turned into a falcon, the man watching ducked back under the ridge, tucking himself into the shadows as the bird flew away.
Merlin… turning into a merlin. Of course.
Shaking his head and sighing in a way that did not sound like the boy's at all, he leapt up and ran back towards the castle.
Merlin winced in sympathy as Sarah screamed with the arrival of another contraction through the door, and knocked on it firmly enough to be heard once the screams faded back into the chatter of Gaius and the two midwives and several friends and family.
A doula opened the door disdainfully, though brightened when she saw Merlin. "Do you have-"
"Here," Merlin said, holding up the pouch of various medicines.
"Merlin!" Gaius yelled out, hearing him. "Come in."
He looked hesitantly at the doula, who sighed and stepped back. "If you're going to be the physician, one day…"
Merlin smiled at her shyly and stepped into the domain of birthing and women, to be immediately confronted with a relieved looking Gaius.
"What's going on?" Merlin asked as he handed off the bag to one of the two midwives, who immediately fished out a medicine and started infusing it with something of her own for the laboring mother-to-be.
"We are not sure," Gaius said, somewhat morosely. "The contractions are happening normally, but the baby refuses to come out. We may have to manually reposition the child soon, or it may be a breech birth…"
"A what now?" Merlin asked, looking towards the generally direction of the poor woman, who sat sweating and panting in the birthing chair, skirts rucked up, with a blanket covering her for modesty.
"A birth where the feet come first instead of the head," Gaius said, shaking his head. "Not the best of ways for either mother or child, in my experience."
Merlin nodded dully, wincing as the woman screamed again. The entire castle bowels probably heard it.
He was so glad he wasn't a woman.
The other midwife who wasn't trying to give Sarah the infusion sighed, wiping sweat off her brow. "The baby can't seem to decide whether or not to enter this world."
Merlin frowned as he studied the large belly currently housing the baby.
Except his magic was telling him it wasn't 'a baby.'
For a moment, Merlin felt sheer panic as he realized – he knew exactly how many people were in this room. The three relatives, two servants, a doula, two midwives, the birthing woman, himself, the physician… and two souls waiting to emerge. He could feel them all, each a chord vibrating with individual strength against his soul.
It felt far too close like the experience of being possessed by Sigan for his comfort.
"Merlin?" Gaius asked, noticing Merlin becoming distressed. Or rather, frozen in distress. Or something like that.
He froze as all of this rushed on him, because it should be new, new, new, but it wasn't.
"Leave him," the first midwife yelled. "He simply can't handle the agony of birth. Weak boy, just like the rest."
It had been there… not all along. But he could feel the two souls (not one, but two) flickering and blinking, and he realized that his constant headache he'd been since the Isle of the Blessed was this. But everyone he'd been around has already been alive. These two were… were…
"Merlin?" Gaius asked one last time, before turning back to the whimpering woman.
In. Out. In. Out.
"Gaius," he said hoarsely.
"One moment, Merlin," Gaius said, as he turned to say something to the midwife.
"Gaius!" Merlin hissed, tugging him back.
Now the second midwife glared at him, before turning to assist the other women with the lavender infusions.
"What is it, Merlin?" Gaius asked. "If you are nervous, say as much, and we can save your learning for another time-"
"It's twins," Merlin breathed out, quietly.
Gaius frowned. "What?"
"Twins," Merlin repeated. "And they are positioned wrong, but it's because they're both trying to… to come out, at once, I think, or something like that, but there isn't one, but two-"
"The midwives would have known as much by now, Merlin," Gaius said. "They-"
"One of the two twins is smaller, weaker," Merlin said in a rush, reaching out for the two new souls, not quite formed, not quite unalive, waiting and waiting and waiting-
"How do you know this?" Gaius asked quietly.
Merlin turned wide and terrified eyes on Gaius.
"I don't know," he admitted, shaking his head slowly. "I… my magic… it's telling me… one of them wants to leave. The other wants to stay. But they both need to leave now… or both need to stay. Or something. I don't know! It doesn't… it doesn't make any sense."
Gaius gave Merlin a speculative look, before his look became mournful and long suffering, and he shut his eyes a moment to gather himself as the woman started screaming again, before they opened with comforting firmness in them. "Merlin… reach out with your mind… look for the child… children."
Merlin frowned at Gaius, but swallowed and nodded, concentrating on the far wall for a moment as his magic reached out, in the same way it did when he needed to do something and didn't know the spell, when it was just him and no sigils or Old Tongue directing it, like he was a child again-
He gasped and stepped back, taking the magic with him.
One of the souls was blinkering out. He could feel everyone on him, in him, like a thumb against his cheek, but on his soul, instead, and this tiny little one was growing weaker, the pressure lessening, slowly slipping again.
"You have to help them, Gaius, fast," Merlin begged quietly, ignoring the glares of the doula and Sarah's sisters and mother and the second midwife, the first one busy with Sarah herself.
"What did you see, Merlin?" Gaius asked. "Or feel?"
"Twins," Merlin repeated, fighting the urge to collapse onto the ground right now and curl up, Cain and Cafall and the clearing and this all overloading his ability to handle it all at once. This day was too much. "You and them and the mother and the doula and the children and one of them is dying, Gaius."
Gaius nodded and turned back. "Agatha," he said to the first midwife. "I suspect it might be twins – we must reposition them, ourselves."
Both of the women looked doubtful, but Sarah sobbed in pain again, and the two midwives shared a few looks and nodded.
They were all rather surprised about an hour later, when it turned out Merlin was right.
Both of them survived birth.
But Merlin could only pray that both survived past that… but, feeling their health, their souls, vibrating in time with his own… he couldn't help but believe that both surviving would be unlikely at best.
"Congratulations, Merlin," Gaius said softly as they entered into their chambers, his voice sounding like the one he used for sick or hurt children in his care.
Merlin nodded dazedly, wishing he could go away, somewhere, maybe the dungeons or something, away from the other prisoners, where there would be no people nearby to feel.
Except he could also feel Cafall. And the plants. And if animals and people felt like this, Merlin wasn't sure he wanted to know how the Dragon would feel. Likely crushing his soul, or perhaps simply smothering it.
Merlin turned to look at his mentor, his uncle, and finally opened his mouth to speak, only to ask, "What's happening to me, Gaius?"
"…remember, what I said… on the Isle, righter after you killed Nimueh?" Gaius asked. "About the power of life and death?"
Even though that had been several months, almost a year ago, Merlin slowly nodded. It was hard to forget – when every instance of strong magic used against him made the burn on his chest reopen, keeping him from healing until only now, remembering things like this was easy.
"What you felt, today, was life."
"But…how come I haven't…well, I have, felt it, since then, but how could I not…?" Merlin collapsed on the workbench.
This day was just too much.
"Because all the people you have been around, before, were alive already. They were a constant."
"I've been around people dying," Merlin said. "How come I didn't feel it then? And how come only now?"
"Because this power is only just maturing within you. I suspect a simple onslaught of need would be enough to cause this. Your power has a tendency of growing less in training and more in distress. This is a volatile power, and I believe the recent stress of chasing after Arthur after the fiasco with the love potions is what triggered it."
Well. Cain, Cafall, and a woman in labor. That sounded distressing enough, without anything else to add in.
"Is there any way to stop it?" Merlin asked, sorting the herbs he'd collected earlier into their appropriate pots and jars. "Wait!"
He looked up at his mentor in a panic. "You said power over life and death – if this was a life I just felt-"
"-death will likely soon come after," Gaius finished, nodding.
Merlin keened and collapsed onto the bench. "But… life was… it was already terrifying enough!"
Gaius sat beside him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and Merlin leaned into Gaius's comforting form.
"Start researching," Gaius offered softly. "Through your books and all of mine – anything about controlling this kind of power. Perhaps you can get it into grips soon enough to avoid the feeling of death."
Merlin swallowed. "Think I'll actually find anything?"
"…I make no promises, Merlin," Gaius said simply. "I just hope for the best… but I expect the worst, too."
Merlin just nodded into Gaius's shoulder.
Merlin swallowed as his knuckles lowered, and Cain called out, "Announce yourself!"
"Merlin," he said, somewhat softly, hating that his voice still wavered, feeling yet again like he had years ago, when Cain simply sent a message to the tavern keeper who sent Merlin along. He remembered being led by nervous servants through darkened hallways of Cain's castle, usually blindfolded, and having his sight return only to see Cain already waiting for him.
This was too familiar.
"Come in, come in!"
He wasn't quite sure what to expect in this new situation. Cain was standing by his table, a pitcher of wine and two iron wrought goblets waiting on the table, along with a pile of sand.
Merlin shut the door behind him, waiting for some kind of cue from Cain, who ended up just gesturing at Merlin to sit down opposite of him at the table.
"Do you remember this, Merlin?" he asked, touching a finger to the little pile of sand and lifting up, a trail of sand following him into the air.
Merlin kept silent.
Cain sighed, shaking his head.
Under his hands, he shaped the sand into a vague goblet shape, and with a few whispered words and a look of intense concentration, a sphere of flames erupted from his hands to enclose the sandy shape.
It grew closer and closer to the goblet, the flames turning brown, purple, blue with heat, and after that it grew bright, and Merlin squinted, somewhat, as Cain worked on his preferred art.
After several moments, the flames died down, and he saw Cain call on water and air, and before long, he was holding up a goblet identical to the iron one on the table – except the material was glass.
He inspected it, looking for errors, before smiling and nodding, satisfied.
Filling it with wine and handing it to Merlin, he poured more wine into his iron goblet and said cheerfully, "To your good health," before raising it sharply in the air in a mock-toast and drinking up.
Merlin did much the same, except he said nothing, before taking a few sips, as well. He wasn't worried about Cain putting something in the drink – it wasn't the man's style, and he was drinking the same wine, anyway – but he did know that he had to have a clear head tomorrow morning.
"So!" Cain said, as he poured himself another goblet. Merlin noted that the pitcher was much emptier than just the few goblets between them would have him believe. "How have you been, since we last saw each other?"
"…well…" Merlin said.
"Come now, Merlin! Surely you have more to say than that? A sorcerer in Uther's court, surely your life must have some adventure in it? Not to mention, I have heard the rumors, like everyone else, of Prince Arthur's misfortune with magic – with you as his servant, I'm sure I have heard not even half the story. I want to hear it all."
After Merlin had a full goblet of wine, and another half with it, he relented.
He carefully, blankly, laid out the order of events that happened to him since he left Ealdor and Northumbria behind.
The Mary/Helen thing was easy, along with the Valiant, the two incidents with Nimueh, and the griffin. With Edwin, he slid over the parts about Gaius and his magic, and quickly sped past how he killed Edwin and saved Uther. The fiasco that was Sophia was easy, though Merlin decided it was best not to mention that he still had the Sidhe staff, and he mentioned mostly in passing about helping a little Druid boy escape, leaving out Arthur and Morgana.
"I have found this intriguing," Cain said. "Druids seem to be trickling back, lately."
He left out Excalibur all together, simply speeding past this story, as well, and hoping Cain believed him when he said the wraith had apparently only seeked to duel Uther, not kill him.
"I was never a knight," Cain said. "Always more of an archer than a swordsman. But I can understand Tristan well. I hope he rests in peace, now."
"So do I!"
Cain was rather surprised when Merlin told the story of Kanan and going back to Ealdor, especially as none of this had reached his ears.
"To be fair," Merlin said. "We were a very private village – why my mother went there in the first place."
Merlin explained the unicorn, though he only said simply that Arthur completed the three tasks, deciding not to elaborate. He brought up Tauren, but left out Morgana's involvement with the king's near-assassination, only stating that he killed the other men and Morgana killed Tauren himself.
"Do you know what happened to that stone?" Cain asked.
Merlin shook his head strongly. "And I don't want to know – even when it was being used in the lower city while I was asleep, its one use woke me here in the castle! I don't want that kind of power."
"Are you so sure?" he asked. "It could be quite useful – a stone that powerful would have more uses than just making gold with magic."
"I'm sure," Merlin assured. "Wherever it's hidden, I hope he hid it well."
When Merlin mentioned the Questing Beast, even Cain looked surprised. "How in heaven and hell is Arthur alive?"
"I… I went to the Isle of the Blessed, to offer my life in for Arthur's. Nimueh was there, and tried to mess things up. Long story short, I killed her, which the Old Religion seemed to think was close enough, as you can see Arthur alive and well today."
As Cain shook his head, and gestured to continue, Merlin felt his gut coil as he realized how eager he was to talk and explain and just say everything that happened to him, even if he was revealing only half the story.
After that, Merlin explained the entire debacle with Sigan. "Oh, you poor boy," Cain said, hand moving as if he planned to stroke Merlin's head, but aborting at the last second.
Merlin could at least admit to himself that it disappointed him.
"I had a spell from one of the books, and I added some of my own words in the Old Tongue, and it worked," Merlin said. He had left out the Dragon in all this, too.
"Still – it must have been harrowing to have another soul in your own," Cain said empathically. Merlin nodded vigorously.
"I… I nearly caved in," Merlin said, lowly. He hadn't even admitted this much to Gaius.
"I'm glad you didn't," Cain said, simply, lifting up his goblet in acknowledgement.
Merlin sighed. "Yeah…" He briefly mentioned Hengist's capture of Gwen and him and Arthur running off to save her, though he knew Cain was mostly interested in the magical bits, so he went past that and went straight into the explanation of the troll.
"I'd heard about that," Cain said. "Uther's famous for having let a troll into his court. Though everyone also knows he was enchanted. Still…"
"Yeah," Merlin said. "It's true. Troll had almost everyone fooled."
"…by almost…" Cain raised an eyebrow, and Merlin sighed and nodded.
"I figured something was off early on. Said she was a troll – no one believed me, obviously. I tried break down her spell, but in the end, she managed to keep it up."
"I'm not surprised," Cain said, softly, cocking his head in a way which Merlin refused to fine gorgeous. "Troll magic is powerful."
"Yeah, well… she framed me for stealing to try and get me out of Camelot, but I managed to stay. Managed to break her spell on Uther in the end, fixed everything."
"Excellent," Cain said.
Merlin paused, then briefly, with a word of caution on magic in general – because, well, after all, if Cain was captured for magic, he'd out Merlin, right? Right. – Merlin explained about the smoke pony and Aredian.
"Nasty people, witchhunters," Cain said, with a shudder. "Especially the ones that actually know what they're doing!"
Merlin nodded. He only briefly mentioned 'the Bastet,' but ultimately just ended it with Arthur killing 'it.'
Freya was his and his, alone.
He explained with the most recent events just before Cain came here, the disaster that was Lady Vivienne.
"Have you figured out who the sorcerer was, yet?" Cain asked.
"Unfortunately, no," Merlin said.
"…likely someone from Alined's delegation," Cain said. "I've heard he is favorable towards magic."
Merlin just shrugged. "Eh – bad plans, but the magic itself wasn't too bad, so I left it alone. I just managed to… I got a cure for the love potion, and left it at that."
Cain smiled. "You've learned much since we last saw each other."
"…thanks," Merlin said, before sighing. "Listen, I have to be somewhere tomorrow, so can we just get to the bed, get this over with, and get me out of here? Please?"
Cain shook his head, but did not speak, instead beckoning Merlin over with a finger.
He wanted to turn around and walk out, but instead, he stepped forward to stand in front of Cain. "There's no reason we can't both enjoy it, Merlin."
Easy for you to say.
He stood up and gently wrapped his large hands around Merlin's waist. He was a few inches shorter than Merlin, only slightly less in height than Arthur, but like Arthur, he had the muscle to make up for it.
And in this case, magic – they both knew that Merlin was more powerful, but they also both knew that even after nearly two years, Cain still outmatched Merlin in knowledge of magic, even if not by much, anymore.
Besides which, the strongest power in the room was that Cain held Merlin's secret in his hands. And while Merlin held Cain's, as well, they also both knew who Uther would believe if it came down to little more than their words.
"Oh, how I have missed you, Merlin," Cain said, which shocked Merlin into frozen silence – which may have been the man's intention, as a moment later, when Cain kissed him, Merlin was too shocked to respond.
Merlin stayed that way, not wanting to encourage Cain too much. But, he had forgotten one small thing – Cain knew him, and he knew him well.
He started rubbing his thumbs in slow, firm circles across Merlin's abdomen, and Merlin tried to push away, but the man's grip remained tight.
His ministrations went down Merlin's hips, towards his groin, and Merlin wanted to resist, he really did, but too many memories of doing otherwise, too much power in Cain's hands over Merlin, on Merlin, and the fact that Cain was the first sorcerer Merlin had ever met that hadn't tried to kill him or Arthur, hadn't tried to hurt Arthur, and it was too much, all too much.
With a severe sense of replay in his motions, Merlin opened his mouth in response, his tongue twining with Cain's as his hands hesitantly went up to Cain's waist, the two men embracing each other, and Cain pulling Merlin close to him.
And perhaps Merlin pulling, too, though he couldn't say, and didn't want to.
Cain dragged him to the bed, and whispered something indecipherable against Merlin's jaw, and Merlin gasped as he found himself suddenly naked – well how come he'd never seen this spell before? – and could only react as Cain fell into the bed with Merlin on top of him.
Merlin wasn't surprised that Cain was hard.
What was surprising was that he was, as well.
"Missed you," Cain murmured again, and Merlin wondered why the man would miss a whore like him, but didn't question it – so long as the man was happy, his secret was safe. "Want you…"
…and this was getting disturbing. But in the business Merlin had once lived in, disturbing was the norm, so he was probably just out of practice.
He made himself languid and pliant, letting Cain arrange him to his liking.
His head snapped up, though, when a whispered spell resulted in Merlin being bound to the bed. His eyes blew open as he tugged against the fibrous ropes binding him to the bed.
When he was younger, this had never boded well.
"Relax, Merlin," Cain said, smiling congenially as he sat astride Merlin, straddling him and pinning Merlin down with his legs. "Things are different, now, remember?"
Shakily, doubtfully, Merlin nodded.
Cain murmured something, and a little jar flew into his hand from the open trunk by the door.
"Remember this?" Cain asked, dribbling some on his fingers. The oil was a murky-bluish color, and Merlin remembered it vividly, just as the first few drops landed on his cock.
He breathed in sharply, biting his lip as the tingling sensation brought him to full mast. He arched off the bed as the burning pleasure ran through his spine, and he cried out as the ropes pulled and burned sharply against his skin, digging into his wrist with enough force to make Merlin land back on the bed, tears nearly in his eyes, already knowing what the bruises would look like, tomorrow.
There was a reason he'd favored such large and covering clothing, and unfortunately, that was going to come into use right now.
Cain swatted at Merlin's thigh beneath his own. "Stay still."
Hazily, Merlin nodded, laying back and trying not to writhe as Cain continued to rub that oil all over Merlin's cock, teasing him and squeezing Merlin when Merlin looked close to coming.
Merlin let his sigh of relief be heard during a brief respite, shutting his eyes as he tried to get his bearings, bring himself under control.
But this was Cain.
It had always been about losing control, which Merlin remembered all too well as he opened his eyes to see Cain's right above his, bracing himself on one hand by Merlin's shoulder, his other hand back by his arse, probably stretching himself quite a bit.
"I remember how you like this," Cain whispered silkily into Merlin's ear, as he eased himself right onto Merlin. "I remember how you like someone else taking control. Someone else taking… responsibility… for you… how you liked someone else there to keep the reins on your magic when you couldn't… oh, yes, Merlin, I remember exactly how you liked it…"
As Merlin arched on the bed, his wrists already bruised from tugging on the restraints, when Cain settled himself fully, their thighs pressing together again as his body enveloped Merlin in that warm, wet heat, and Merlin couldn't help but agree.
And that, sir, is the problem.
Cain was slow, teasing, prolonging his own pleasure by pushing up and dropping back in a haphazard rhythm, slow sometimes and faster others. Merlin, meanwhile, threw his head back and shut his eyes, relying on feel, on the feeling of Cain's arse around his prick, of Cain's hands under his back, of Cain's arms by his chest, and of Cain's rope against his wrists as he tugged uselessly at them – even though it was never Cain's face Merlin saw in his eyelids, ever.
He tried, at least.
"Nngh," Was Merlin's only verbal response to Cain's taunting.
He hated how much he enjoyed this. But with Cain leaning down and laving his tongue over Merlin's neck while evening out the higher-speed of his thrusting, Merlin knew denying that at this point would be useless, so instead he thrust himself up into Cain's next drop, the skin-on-skin smack resounding in Merlin's ears.
"Ooooh," Cain moaned out at Merlin thrusting into him. "Eager, aren't we?" Merlin could feel the smug grin against the skin of his shoulder.
"I have to wake up early, tomorrow," Merlin said, flatly. "I need to get this over with now."
Cain rolled his eyes, but nodded pleasantly, slamming onto Merlin sharply in retribution, causing Merlin to keen highly at that.
"Are you sure, Merlin?" Cain asked. His thrusting slowed enough for him to balance on one hand and reach up with the other to tangle in Merlin's hair and direct his gaze back to the lord. "You are still keeping your magic so close to you, Merlin… release it… you know you can…"
"We both… both have our limits, C-Cain," Merlin stuttered around Cain's rough rhythm. "I prefer to keep my… to myself…" He couldn't even say magic, at this point.
Cain mouthed his eyes across Merlin's collarbone, up his neck, and over his jaw, ending at Merlin's mouth. Responding mostly out of habitual instinct, Merlin kissed back, closing his eyes to do so.
There was a reason he developed this habit, though…
Merlin opened his eyes to see Cain doing much the same – but his eyes were flashing gold, and in time with another thrust from Cain, this made Merlin gasp.
"I've got you, Merlin, I have you, you know I do…" Cain murmured, his hand wrapping around Merlin's neck.
Merlin did know.
No! He mentally revolted, even as Cain's hand tightened around his throat.
But, he did nothing about it.
Letting defiance pour into his expression, Merlin pulled on Cain one more time with his hips, arching his back as the man came from Merlin's aggressiveness just as much as his own, his hand tightening painfully.
Still, Merlin used nothing that he could have to loosen Cain's grip.
And just as he was reaching his breaking point, just as he was about to pass out and possibly die due to the control he just gave this man, Cain let go.
The rush of air into Merlin's lungs, the sharp burn and his blood rushing was too much-
He sobbed as he came.
It was with shaking hands that Merlin dressed himself right by Cain's bed a little later, the lord himself lying languidly on the bed, watching Merlin with obvious interest.
This reminded Merlin too much of his youth (and really? He was old enough to say 'youth,' now?).
"Merlin," Cain said, catching Merlin's wrist as Merlin turned to leave. "When will I next see you?"
"I don't know," Merlin said. "The Prince is a busy man, which makes me even busier."
A dark look passed over Cain's face. "So the prince, owns you, then?"
"No one owns me," Merlin retorted, turning on his heel, shooting back, "No matter what all the money you gave me said, you never owned me."
"No – just rented," Cain agreed. Merlin stiffened as he listened to Cain talking about Merlin like a like… like a… like something that could be owned… but he did not stop or slow his gait to the door for one step.
"Have a good evening, milord," Merlin said, bowing his head respectfully before stepping out.
Merlin made it a whole two floors down before he slipped into one of the oriels that was protected by a tapestry and likely forgotten by all but the cleaning servants.
He was gasping harshly as he leaned against the wall, and collapsed to the ground sobbing, as he felt horror and relief and nostalgia all flood him at once. And longing.
Longing for the man who'd just hurt him.
Merlin knew it was just the magic. He knew it was just the old feelings of finally, finally, finally knowing another sorcerer coming to light. He knew it was relief at the way he could finally unload himself on someone else and have them understand, truly feel, what he was going through. He knew it was just his mind betraying him.
That did not make the loneliness any less painful, nor the shame and guilt any less difficult to bear.
It felt like hours, and may have very well been, before Merlin's sobs receded to dry trembling as he stared out over the city, peaceful in its slumber this late at night, the dawn not too far away at all.
He gathered up what was left of his wits, and turned his back on the city and slipped out of the oriel and back to his chambers.
Tomorrow was going to be a long day, he was sure of it.
A/N: Bet you weren't expecting Merlin to be the top while being coerced like this, were ya? ;)
I'm sorry, but perpetual!bottom!Merlin, especially in whump fics, has been bugging me in the fandom as of late, and I thought it would be fun to reverse the typical 'rape trauma' pattern and see what happens.
Dig? Not Dig? Comments are love and loved, either way.
Terge = clean, imperative singular
Aperi = open, imperative singular
Old English Spells:
Áthierre = clean, imperative singular
And, as usual for those who ask, the spells on the show are in Old English, and on my profile there is a link to a post on my LiveJournal on how to best translate Old English to make your own spells.