Disclaimer: We do not own this incarnation of Merlin. The BBC does. No copyright infringement intended and no profit is being made.

The Inherent Dangers of Shortcuts and Projectiles

Chapter 1

A struggle…hands fisted in fabric…a shove…thin frame falling into moldy hay…thick metal bars…heavy iron gate closing, ringing with finality…muttered foreign tongue…familiar blue eyes flashing gold… blinding light…

Morgana gasped, wrenching upright in the bed, sheets tangled around her legs, sweat gathering at her temple. Eyes wild, roving, hands clenched in her skirt, she searched the room, looking for familiarity, so real was her dream that for a moment, she had forgotten where she was, who she was. Her chest heaved in erratic pants and she closed her eyes against the vision, flinched away from the fear. She forced herself to calm, evened her breathing. It hadn't been her, clapped in irons, looking through the barred door. It had been…

She snapped her eyes open and scrambled from the bed. Grabbing a dressing gown, she hastily wrapped it around herself, thankful Gwen was not present to admonish her for roaming around the castle half-dressed. She hurried to the dungeon, expensive silk dragging on the stones behind her.

-

In a land of myth and a time of magic the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name…Merlin

-

Merlin blew out a bored breath as he balanced on a stool, head in his hand, lazily watching the enchanted broom make its rounds in and out of the deserted cells. He had been banished from Arthur's presence after an incident with a laden breakfast tray, a harried chambermaid and the Prince's prized hunting gear. A verbal dismissal laced with 'idiot' had seen him down in the empty dungeon experimenting with magicked household items.

He rubbed at his eyes and teetered dangerously on the stool, letting out a loud yawn, eyelids drooping of their own accord.

Having almost fallen asleep, he nearly missed the rushed footsteps on the roughly hewn stone stairs. Jerking awake, he fell off the stool before diving for the broom, fingers wrapping around the splintered handle just as Morgana appeared in the doorway.

She looked frantic, fearful; face pale, hair twisted and tangled, eyes dark. Her gaze landed on Merlin, stretched across the floor, gripping the broom.

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

Merlin eyed her warily as he slowly got to his feet. "What did you see?" he hedged.

"You're sweeping. You're not in the cell."

It was a statement and a question and it threw Merlin off, unsure of what she had seen, but the mention of him actually being jailed sent a shiver down his spine.

He swallowed hard. "Should I be?" he asked, cursing the quiver in his voice.

"No," she answered quickly. "I hope not."

Brow furrowed, she looked around one last time, hands shaking.

Merlin shifted, uncomfortable, and worried. "Is something wrong, milady?" he asked tentatively, courting danger, mind quickly racing through scenarios and possible explanations for why the broom was dancing around the room on its own.

"No," she said, seemingly coming back to herself but smiling tight and forced. "Not yet."

She turned, heading back up the stairs.

Merlin waited a tortured, indeterminate amount of time, intently listening to Morgana's footsteps fade before dropping the broom and sprinting up the stairwell, completing forgetting his chore and Arthur's order to attend to him when finished.

----

The heavy wooden door creaked and slammed behind Merlin noisily as he fell backwards against it, as if holding the rest of Camelot out behind him.

"Merlin?" Gaius called with surprise, rising from his desk and looking the boy over worriedly, "What's wrong?"

The young man's head snapped up, eyes unblinking as he quickly answered, "Wrong? Nothing's wrong, I was just--"

"Merlin," Gaius interrupted sternly, head tilting but eyes remaining level, serious and expectant.

Taking a deep breath, Merlin hurriedly confessed, "I think Morgana may have seen me using magic."

Gaius blinked in disbelief, a short but noticeable double take, and he crossed the room to the door immediately. The young wizard shuffled aside as Gaius opened the door to poke his head out, just in case the royal guard was on their way.

"How could you be so foolish! I've warned you and warned you; you know the dangers! What were you doing that warranted use of magic in the castle of all places?"

Merlin, pursing his lips and looking away, answered quietly, "Sweeping."

"Sweeping!" Gaius exploded, shutting the door behind him and batting the boy across the shoulder. He sighed then, deflating, shaking his head, speaking with astonishment, "Merlin," as though it were the only admonishment he were capable of after hearing such a revelation. "Sweeping with magic in Uther's court? Have you taken leave of all your senses?"

"Arthur had sent me to the dungeons to sweep, no one else was around and I wasn't expecting Morgana to burst in," Merlin defended agitatedly, cracking the door open himself to peek outside before closing it again, deciding himself safe.

"Did she see you?"

"I..." Merlin began, stopping to think. His mind returned to the moment Morgana flew around the corner, fear and shock on her face and in her eyes. "I don't think so. She seemed dazed. If she did see anything she wasn't in the right state of mind to understand it."

"That begs the question what she was doing in the dungeons in the first place," Gaius spoke worriedly, adding, "Perhaps...Well it doesn't matter now."

Merlin smiled sheepishly. Again Gaius shook his head.

"One of these days you won't be so lucky. You need to be careful with your magic. You're destined for great things; don't waste your gift sweeping in the dungeons and getting caught. Being Arthur's servant, or friend even, won't save you then."

Sighing, sagging against the door, Merlin admitted, "I know. I'll be more careful." He looked up then, facing Gaius with all intended honesty, "I promise."

---

A/N: this fic is yet another brain child of fuzzytomato and steamboatghost. It is our first foray into the Merlin fandom and we are excited to be here. please leave us feedback as we would love to hear what you think. Also, check out steamboatghost's oneshot entitled Ascension.

Thanks and please review.