A/N: Sequel to 'Flowers'. Merlin's POV, this time. Merlin/Arthur. This fic was supposed to be short and quick, but it kind of blew up on me. All my fics have been doing that to me, lately. Would you believe me if I said this was only supposed to be 1,500 words, like Flowers?
It had actually just started with the dreams.
Morgana hadn't known of his magic at the time, but she did know he was a friend of the Druids, and he knew of her magic – and was still her friend.
He remembered Will, and knew how powerful someone not being afraid of your magic was.
Of course, there was now also Gwen, who Morgana told everything, too.
"You're a friend of the Druids?" Gwen asked, in hushed tones, as they carried sheets from their respective masters' chambers down to the laundry. "How…is it because of your sorcerer friend? Will?"
"Yea," Merlin said, still hating having to keep to that lie, but needing to, nonetheless. "And the thing with the little Druid boy we rescued, Mordred. Morgana saw him, you know, at the encampment."
"I'll bet she was happy about that," Gwen said, smiling.
Merlin's guilt grew when late one day, Morgana pulled Merlin into a secluded alcove, saying, "I had a nightmare last night."
"Do you want me to get Gaius?"
She shook her head. "You – you actually believe me, now – I can see the future…and maybe prevent it. Gaius refuses to see it as magic."
"I don't entirely blame him – he's afraid of the king," Merlin said. "What did you see?"
"Some fire, or maybe a creature that breathes fire, I'm not sure," Morgana said. "A few knights died in it, and Arthur…oh, Merlin, Arthur took it so badly. These knights are the ones closest to him, and he's going to be so devastated…I could feel what he felt, and it was horrible."
"I'll keep an eye out for fires," Merlin promised.
And he did.
About a week later, while on an extended patrol, a few boars got loose in a village and knocked over lanterns and oil, setting the entire village they were passing through ablaze.
Merlin made sure to warn Arthur and the knights that the fire was worse than it appeared, and ignored Arthur's warning to stay back, opting to help, instead.
A few bad burns, but no deaths.
Morgana grinned at Merlin when they crossed in the halls, the next day, and Merlin returned the gesture in whole.
The next time she showed her trust in him, well, Merlin caved.
Gwen had to run off and deal with something down in her father's smith shop, so Merlin took Morgana's lunch up to her.
Morgana seemed surprised to see Merlin, but smiled, letting him in easily, and shutting the door behind him.
"I'm practicing," she said, when Merlin asked how she was. She stared at the candle in concentration, and a flame flickered into existence from nowhere, and another focused stare, and it went out again.
Merlin smiled encouragingly – "Brilliant!" – and set down the tray, and at Morgana's bidding, took a seat as she offered him an apple – which he took gratefully – as she set one on the table.
"I got it to move a bit, yesterday," she admitted. "Your friend Will was a sorcerer, right? Do you know anything he did that helped him?"
"Um…" Merlin paused, wondering how best to phrase what assistance he could offer. "I think it helped, when he was first…learning, or practicing, I guess – he would move his hands with what he tried to do, as if he were lifting or moving it by hand."
Morgana blinked, and smiled, and looking at the apple, she held her palm out like she was holding it. Her eyes flashed gold – like Merlin's – as she focused, and the apple lifted slowly, just as her hand did.
"I've got it!" She said, excitedly, looking up at Merlin, grinning. The apple fell back down, but Morgana was undeterred.
Merlin smiled again, jerking his chin back at the fruit.
"Thank you," she said, in earnest, after a few more tries, as he got up to leave. "You have no idea…I feel just a little less alone with you here, knowing about my magic and being unafraid, as you are."
Merlin sighed…and he couldn't keep it to himself, anymore, as he remembered his own loneliness over the years.
"Morgana," he said. "I…I lied."
She frowned from her seat by the table. "What?"
He swallowed. "I…Will wasn't the sorcerer. He never was."
As speculation crossed her features, she said, "Then who…?"
Merlin's eyes flashed gold, and Morgana gasped, wide-eyed, as not only did the apple float, so did all the fruit on the fruit tray, and the tray itself.
As it lowered back down, Morgana, voice betraying pain, said, "Why didn't…why didn't you tell me?"
"I was terrified," Merlin admitted, sheepishly, stepping back towards the table, but not sitting down. "My mother drilled absolute secrecy into me since I was young, and Gaius warned me, and…I wanted to, so badly."
She shut her eyes. "I want to feel angry…but I can see why you…" She sighed, and smiled, looking at the fruit tray. "Can you show me how to do that?"
Half an hour later, Merlin walked out of her room and down the stairs, smiling to himself at Morgana's laughter from managing to keep multiple apples in the air at once.
"What have I said about this?"
Merlin jumped and whirled around to see Arthur standing there, still in his patrol armor, hair all mussed up in a way that Merlin personally made Arthur look rather dashing, but never actually told the prat. He had a big enough head as it was.
Rolling his eyes – already knowing what Arthur was thinking – he said, "I was just bringing the Lady her lunch."
"Yes – just like you were just cheering her up with the flowers, and just comforting her in Gaius's chambers, and just checking up on her-"
"For god's sake, it's nothing!" Merlin said. "I just wanted to help. Stop acting like a jealous husband or something – I doubt Morgana would take well to one, even you."
And 'jealous husband' made Arthur freeze, and Merlin stepped back at the blank expression that took over Arthur's face – it always hid another emotion, and more often than not, it was nothing good.
Shaking his head, Arthur said, "Just…be careful. You're a servant, she's the king's ward – this could get very complicated, very fast."
"Need me to help you out of your armor?" Merlin offered.
Arthur swallowed, suddenly looking…well, not alarmed, but not quite just surprised, either.
"No…I won't be needing you any more, today, actually," Arthur said, curtly, before turning on his heel and heading back to his own chambers.
Merlin blinked, before shaking his head to himself. He gave up trying to figure out Arthur ages back.
Unfortunately, it didn't end there.
When Morgana came rushing down to Gaius's chambers in the middle of the night as distressed as she was, well, that in itself wasn't actually too uncommon – ever since childhood, she had gone to Gaius.
Except, well, Gaius wasn't there, and Merlin was. He quietly offered up his shoulder for her, and she cried out her terror, before telling him of the massacre that would happen if Uther went to war with Bayard again.
"There's going to be blood, everywhere," she said. "Someone is going to fall from a ridge, and hits rocks on the way down – it will literally be raining blood."
"Shh…" Merlin murmured, stroking her hair. "Arthur's already said Uther is trying to avoid war."
"But if he does-"
"He won't." Merlin paused. "Maybe we could tell Arthur your dream…he may not know they're prophetic, but ever since the Questing Beast, they've at least put him on guard."
She sighed. "Please do."
"Need a sleeping draught?" Merlin offered, vaguely gesturing his arm in the general direction of the stores of vials Gaius had for the ails of the castle. Merlin had learned most of them, by now, and was easily able to administer half the shelves with a reasonable amount of expertise.
"A calming one, then," Merlin said, grabbing a lavender-based mixture which he knew would taste quite horrible, actually, but would also do the trick. He'd filched enough, himself, after particularly brutal escapades he endured thanks to Arthur.
Unfortunately, as they walked back, who should they run into but the Prince, himself?
He appeared to be coming back from a late night patrol, and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Merlin and Morgana paused by a window, where Merlin had been explaining what little he knows about the moon and its cycle and impact on Seers.
"Merlin? Morgana?" They both turned their heads, and Morgana waved with a smile, freezing as she noticed the shocked look on her face.
And suddenly, Arthur was storming over, and grabbed Merlin's arm, pulling him close as he said, "What the hell did I tell you about this?"
"What is going on?" Morgana demanded, separating the two, facing Arthur, as Merlin spoke over her head.
"She had a nightmare! She came to Gaius's, and I was there, I cheered her up, and now I'm just walking her back to her chambers."
"Of course you bloody are," Arthur growled.
"Arthur!" Morgana snapped, pushing him back. "What the hell has gotten into you?!"
"I know you've never cared too much about the ranks of your paramours," Arthur said, facing her. "But really, Merlin-"
"First off, he's my friend," she hissed. "Second, even if he were my 'paramour', you have no right to interfere!"
Arthur glared at her as Merlin said quietly, "She had a nightmare about the possible war with Mercia."
Now Arthur's head snapped to Merlin, but Morgana continued with, "Please, don't do it – there will be so much bloodshed."
Swallowing and stepping back from both of them, Arthur said, "It…was just a dream, Morgana."
"And my dreams about the Questing Beast?" She pressed. "A woman's intuition is rarely so wrong, Arthur."
Looking between them, Arthur said, "I am already planning to evade this war to the best of my ability, as it is."
Morgana smiled in relief.
Arthur shook his head to himself as he said, "Be careful, both of you, before this little fling of yours spirals out of control." And without another word, he walked past them both.
When they reached Morgana's room, she said, "He thinks we're lovers?!"
Merlin nodded morosely. "I've been trying to tell him otherwise, but…he's been acting strangely for a while, now."
She sighed, shaking her head. "My brother is an idiot," she said, and Merlin blinked. Arthur and Morgana certainly acted like brother and sister all the time, but he was never quite sure how they considered themselves and each other.
Staring at the candles around the room, lighting them by magic, she said, "Perhaps…this could work in our favor."
Startled, he yelped, "What?!"
She smiled at him as she vaguely gestured to the fruit tray in offering. This time, it was some grapes.
"It would make meeting at night and other times easier," she said.
"How would people thinking we're having an affair help us?" Merlin asked.
"It's only an affair if one of us is married," she said. "And unless you count the way you and Arthur tend to act like a married couple, this is not the case. But…it's official rules and unofficial rules, Merlin."
"Two sets of rules?" he asked, confused. "I have enough trouble trying to understand one as it is!"
"Officially, the guards and night-servants would be quite disinclined to your presence outside of your own chambers in the middle of the night, or me mine. Unofficially, the guards will be far more likely to turn a blind eye to your presence in this part of the castle in the middle of the night if they think-"
"-I'm meeting you for a romantic rendezvous," Merlin finished. Morgana smiled, and Merlin sighed, looking morosely at his grapes. "Am I going to have to kiss you?"
He did. Morgana was desperate to get the chance to practice with Merlin, and was eager to get time alone with him to further this along.
As it turned out, she'd told Gwen about his magic, too. Merlin couldn't find it in himself to be surprised, feeling only relieved that Gwen's opinion of him did not change. Much.
"It…it makes a lot of sense," Gwen said, with a wondering smile as she watched Merlin teach Morgana to make shapes out of the floating embers from the fire place.
And Gwen helped. Feigning an illness one day, she sent some random kitchen maid up with Morgana's breakfast, with the promise that Morgana wouldn't mind them just opening the door and setting down the food tray, as she often was already quite busy with castle duties to be bothered with opening the door.
Merlin and Morgana were standing by the bed, and Morgana was smiling in fond reminisce as they waiting for the sound of the kitchen maid's footsteps, Merlin magically priming their ears.
"This reminds me," Morgana said, after a questioning eyebrow from Merlin (and really, he had to stop spending so much time around Gaius, at this rate). "Of a time, when Arthur and I were younger, on that cusp between childhood and adulthood…it was the first time that Arthur's marriage came up as a political commodity, in the form of a visiting Lord of some massive amount of land along the border with Northumbria – and his daughter."
"What happened?" Merlin asked.
"Well, she wasn't too bad looking…but the way she treated everyone – ugh. She might as well have been a hag. Arthur was terrified at the prospect of marrying her."
Already getting a feeling of where this was going, Merlin asked, "So you two…?"
"We pretended to be having our own 'fling'," Morgana said. "I had to pretend to be quite possessive, and make subtle threats, woman to woman instead of King's Ward to Lady, against her if she tried to 'take Arthur away from me'. This would keep her away from him, but it would not be a political offense, only a minor social one. It was one of the extraordinarily few times I have ever seen Arthur beg me for anything."
"Beg?" Merlin asked, incredulously.
Morgana nodded, grinning. "He even got down on one knee and promised to help me with my plan to fight in a tournament undercover in exchange."
Merlin laughed, keeping his voice low so's to hear the footsteps. "That must've been…"
Morgana nodded. "He even made do with his promise. I got third place, and would've been awarded if someone hadn't noticed that I had chest bindings."
A smile of his own, Merlin rolled his eyes, before his eyes widened as he heard the footsteps, suddenly impeccably nervous.
"It's all right, Merlin, just one kiss in front of a gossipy maid, and that will be all we need," Morgana said. "Then you can go back to chasing maids by day and squires by night."
Merlin nodded, swallowing thickly, and they both leaned in as the door clicked open, and Morgana's hand shot up and pulled him in for a well-dramatized, searing kiss as the door opened fully.
"Milady, I have your breakfast from Gwen…" the maid trailed off as Merlin pulled away from Morgana, 'startled'. Morgana gave the maid a cool look, while Merlin gave her his best embarrassed and terrified look. The embarrassed part was easy, and after imagining the interrogation he would likely suffer down in the kitchens, tonight, the terror soon followed.
The maid's eyes widened at their posture, even as Morgana quickly detached herself from Merlin, who ducked his head and looked sheepish. Even though this was just a ruse for the sake of practicing magic, it was still dead embarrassing.
"Oh…um, m-milady…your lady-in-waiting is ill," the maid stammered, blinking and stepping forward to set the tray down on the table. "I…are you…? I shall…I will just leave you to your…"
"Thank you," Morgana said, evenly. "You may go. And, I would appreciate if you kept what you saw here today to yourself."
The maid nodded in a way Merlin knew meant Morgana had just guaranteed the entire bloody castle would know by nightfall. Scampering away, Merlin sighed in relief as soon as the door was closed.
"The king isn't going to try and have me gelded for this, is he?" Merlin asked. "I was told he would have my head for this, and I'm rather worried as to just which one, to be honest."
"So long as you do not beget me with child, no," she said. "Though I expect I will be receiving yet another lecture on discretion and the propriety of court Ladies and what's expected of me as the King's Ward before tomorrow is over."
She rolled her eyes, and Merlin asked, "I take it you have gotten that before?"
"Yes," she said. "The first time was, in fact, with that ruse Arthur and I set up – and even after we told him it was a ruse to put off the visiting Lady without actually offending her politically…actually, he commended us for what we did, and then still gave us the lecture. Arthur's face was red as a tomato throughout it all, and mine was likely just as red from trying not to laugh. It was only worse when Uther made Gaius repeat our lesson on reproductive anatomy in the wake of it."
"Sounds like the entire thing was one humiliating debacle for Arthur," Merlin said.
"It was," she said, sitting on the edge of her bed and patting the space beside her, to which Merlin sat, as well. "I never had so much fun in my life."
"Possibly a bit too much," Merlin muttered.
"I hope this won't be too much of a detriment to your actual love life," Morgana said, levitating some bread over to them after Merlin clicked the lock shut, magically.
"Eh," Merlin said with a shrug, keeping his eye on the bread in case Morgana's focus faltered. "It hasn't been much beyond the occasional midnight meeting in the stables with a squire or visiting servant for quite a while, and they don't really care if I am being unfaithful on someone with them. And even then, there wasn't too much to it."
"Oh?" she asked, bread freezing in midair as she turned to look at him. At least it didn't drop, this time. With a jerk of his chin towards it, it was floating towards them again as Morgana focused on it.
"Usually ended with dropping breeches before actually taking them off," he said. "I keep hearing that I'm quite good with my mouth."
She laughed as she split the bread in half in midair. "I wonder if this is a staple of sorcerers – according to Gwen, so am I."
By lunch time, the entire servant population of Camelot Castle 'knew' about his romance with Morgana. In the kitchens, he was met with sly smiles, and questions, when did this start, how did it happen, was it true, what was he thinking, was she really as great in bed as rumored?
Merlin blushed furiously the entire time, trying to get away from them all feebly, but telling them the story Morgana had drilled into him. They'd had chemistry between them for quite a while, now, and it was the entire Druid debacle a few weeks back which had triggered the courage in Merlin to finally kiss her, and it all went uphill from there, now please, leave him alone!
The castle staff weren't even the worst of it.
Gaius was the worst.
"An affair with the Lady Morgana?" he practically yelled. "What were you thinking?"
And Merlin really, really, really, really, really did not want a repeat of his own version of the lecture about love and propriety from Gaius, so he caved instantly and said, "It was a ruse."
Now the physician's eyes narrowed as Merlin continued with, "I told her about my magic, and she-"
"You what? Merlin, what did I say-"
"She was desperate!" Merlin said. "I…I told you – you have no idea how lonely it is, when you're the only one with magic-"
"That's no excuse!"
"-especially in a place like this-"
"Like Camelot, where magic is so prohibited!" Merlin cried out. "Why do you think I was warmed up to Edwin so fast?"
And then Merlin regretted his words almost instantly, seeing the look of hurt flash across Gaius's eyes, and watching him drop onto his workbench, sighing.
"I…I am sorry about that, Merlin," Gaius said.
"About what? I was the one who-"
"I should have told you sooner," Gaius said. "I never did tell you my side of that story, did I?"
Merlin shook his head, having seen Gaius's state after the fiasco and not wanting to press the man.
"I knew who Edwin was long before he revealed himself…I threatened to tell the king about him. He threatened to tell the king about you. And…you looked so delighted at the time, having finally found someone else with magic, whom you could share with, learn from."
Merlin nodded, dragging a stool to sit down across from the man, as Gaius kept his eyes no higher than Merlin's knees. He remembered how he felt, having finally met someone else magic, in person, and willing to share.
"I had hoped, desperately, that maybe he had inherited his parents' healing philosophies, their pacifism, and his form of revenge would be to bring magic back to Camelot silently, good magic, to spite Uther and his views. I…I was wrong. He nearly killed me, the king, and you for my mistake."
Seeing the man's true regret and teetering on despair, Merlin took Gaius's hand in his and said, "It's all right, Gaius. I can…" Merlin sighed. "I would like to say I'm sorry for admitting to my magic when he showed me his, but I'm not. I learned a lot from him in those few days. But I was sorry, beyond words, when you nearly left because of him and because of me, and I am so glad that you came back, and were all right by the end of it. You're the closest thing to a father I ever had, and I was so terrified to see you in those flames."
"It was fortunate, truly, that we came out largely unscathed," Gaius said. "But no less a bitter memory."
Merlin just smiled, squeezing Gaius's hands.
"I suppose," Gaius said. "It would better to be you she learns from, than someone else like Edwin."
"Though really, Merlin, a romance with her?"
"It was her idea!"
By that night, Merlin knew he was wrong.
Gaius wasn't the worst.
That honor would go to Arthur.
That night, Merlin brought Arthur his dinner like every evening, in a chipper mood after his talk with Gaius.
"Evening," Merlin said, blinking at seeing Arthur brooding by the window and loosely holding a sword in his hands, but he set down the tray like normal. Probably the impending war to worry about. "Dinner – no stew, though. A servant-boy in the kitchens tripped and knocked the whole thing over, and before you say anything, no, I had absolutely nothing to do with it, and-"
"Will you just shut up?"
Merlin heard these words all the time, and usually listened.
But, he had never heard it with the fury coating them as they were, now.
Jaw snapping shut in shock, Arthur continued with, "I heard the most interesting rumor, today."
Merlin swallowed, staying silent. God, Arthur wasn't still on about that, was he?
"Some maid supposedly walked in on you and Morgana in a moment of 'searing passion'," Arthur said, coldly, twirling the sword lazily in his hand.
Taking a deep breath, Merlin said, "It was just a kiss."
"Is that your definition of 'just friends', Merlin?"
Merlin didn't say anything as Arthur turned around, but when he fixed a glare on his manservant, Merlin spoke up.
"What's wrong with you? You've been acting strange since…since-"
"You can go," Arthur said, curtly, grip tightening on his sword, as he came over and inspected his meal for the night.
"No," Merlin said, leaning on the table. "Not until you tell me what's wrong."
Arthur stiffened, before saying, "You forget, Merlin, that you are the servant and I am the crown prince of Camelot. Get out. Now."
God, he sounded furious. It was terrifying to watch him turn away, his back to Merlin as Merlin, himself, could feel the rage radiating off Arthur in waves.
"No," Merlin croaked out. "Not until-"
"I said get out!"
Merlin's eyes widened in shock as Arthur whirled around, and hissed in shock as he felt the blade of the sword pressed against his throat.
He stared at Arthur's face, looking for a clue, anything to try and understand the man – but finding nothing but hurt and anger, and Merlin had no idea how or way.
Keep a steady gaze locked on Merlin, he stepped back, the blade sliding against Merlin's throat, without actually slicing the skin, until just the tip was pressing against his Adam's apple.
This time, Merlin couldn't do anything but listen.
"He put a sword to your throat?" Morgana asked in shock, the next day, out in the forest, where she and Merlin had snuck off to for some more practice in magic.
Merlin nodded, adjusting his pack, again. No one had thought anything of it when Merlin had mentioned going out into the forest for herbs for Gaius, but as soon as the staff found out it was at the same time as one of Morgana's 'armed strolls', they suddenly shoved an entire picnic at him, complete with sly winks and leering suggestions as he scurried away.
Morgana hadn't helped, either, wearing a flowery tunic with her stolen breeches and 'almost forgetting' her sword she was known to prefer in her illicit sword practices.
"It was nothing-"
"He was threatening you, Merlin!"
"Then he does that all the time," Merlin said. "But it's always joking…but god, last night, he was so furious."
Morgana sighed as they reached the stream. "We can't tell him the truth – he's finding himself, Merlin, and he will find himself, one day – I have seen it. But that day is not today, and he is still too tight in Uther's grip to be safe to bring into this."
Merlin nodded dully. "I know…I just…"
Morgana smiled and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder as she sat by the gurgling water. "I know, Merlin. Now, come – how, exactly, are we going to get ice in the middle of autumn?"
Merlin almost hated himself for the way he has to hunch his shoulders in before he goes into Arthur's room, that night. It was like right after the Questing Beast again, and Merlin winced at the memories of his and Arthur's argument after that, and how they'd danced around each other insanely for quite so long after that. It had allowed Cedric to slip into his place with ridiculous ease, and had terrified Merlin with how bad things could become between him and Arthur.
Feeling braced enough for this, Merlin took a deep, fortifying breath, and stepped into Arthur's rooms.
"Ar-Sire?" he asked, hesitantly, hoping that maybe a calm approach would work, this time. "I have your dinner-"
"Leave it and go."
Arthur was working in a ledger at his desk, and wouldn't even look up.
Merlin calmly set down the meal, then said, "Please, Arthur, I just-"
"Leave, before I make you."
Arthur still wouldn't look up, and Merlin knew Arthur was using that as a shield.
Too. Damn. Bad.
Arthur tensed, but kept his eyes on his ledger as he said, "I can kick you out, myself, along with calling for the guards."
Merlin plopped himself down in Arthur's lambskin chair by the fire, back straight from nervousness, but arms crossed defiantly. "Are you jealous of me because of Morgana? Can you at least tell me why you're so angry?"
"I'm the prince of Camelot, and I do not have to explain myself to you."
"Then as Arthur, explain yourself to Merlin, because I really don't-"
"You want an explanation?"
Merlin startled as Arthur finally looked up, cold rage simmering in his eyes.
"It's not you I'm jealous of!" he yelled out, standing up and stalking over, leaning on the arms of the chair, trapping the now terrified Merlin in his chair. "It's her I'm jealous of."
Merlin stared in confusion, as Arthur continued with, "She keeps taking everything I want. She got a prized mare over me when we were children. She has been able to claim superior skill in swordsmanship for years, now, and she doesn't even care. She can be as affectionate with my father as she wants and he will never begrudge her that, never call her weak. She can argue with him all she wants and my father will never threaten her with disapproval and even disownment for a simple disagreement. And now…now, she's taken you."
A blink, then, "What do you mean…she took me? I still-"
And suddenly, Merlin was cut off by Arthur pressing his lips against Merlin's, pressing forward with desire, his tongue entering Merlin's shock-opened mouth, curving along his lips. Merlin was too shocked to move, and by the time he regained his senses-
Arthur was pulling away, leaning on the chair's arms and breathing heavily.
"I should not have done that," he said, in a surprisingly apologetic tone, which shook Merlin out of his stupor.
Arthur pushed himself off and away, turning his back and crossing his arms over himself as he repeated, "Leave. Now."
Scared of Arthur, actually terrified of him, for the first time in months, Merlin just obeyed and fled.
"It's me," Merlin said, when Morgana asked what was wrong the next day. "Arthur…he…last night, he kissed me."
Morgana's eyebrows both rose (well, she had spent quite large portions of her childhood with Gaius) as she said, "Kissed you?"
Merlin nodded, wringing his hands, before focusing his attentions on Morgana's still unmade bed, making it with ridiculously precise movements of his magic as he said, "Yea…he thinks you took me away from him."
"Oh, god, he…?" Morgana took a deep breath. "That idiot."
Merlin just nodded as he finished the bed. "Morgana, it was…he was…" He sighed, collapsing into a chair by the fire. "When did my life become so mad?"
A small chuckle, and then a chair was dragging itself behind Morgana and stopped itself in front of Merlin, where Morgana slid into the chair and took his hands into hers. "One day, he will be yours, Merlin. Whatever happens, now, most things of the future I see…whether you two rule Albion, together, or Camelot is falling to ruins, you two are always together. In what capacity, I do not know, but I at least know that you two are practically inseparable."
"Besides," she continued. "You two have been acting like a married couple, anyway – when this ruse can be put to rest…"
And he grinned.
Unfortunately, even if Merlin and Arthur would stick together no matter what, it would be a while until then, as the next day, Arthur refused to even look at Merlin, already dressed for the day – his sudden discomfort with Merlin helping him with his clothes and armor made so much sense, now – and Merlin, unsure of what to do, simply left.
And then, Arthur would follow him, apparently.
That was the only explanation Merlin could come up with for it.
Arthur was everywhere.
Merlin twisted away as yet again as he carefully clutched the bowl, Arthur was watching him from across the courtyard, yet five minutes later, was not surprised to find Arthur still watching him as he came back the way with the bowl full of water.
"He's watching me," he told Gwen and Morgana later that day, hand over the bowl of water as he showed Morgana how to scry – not that he needed to teach her much, as her natural Seeing tendencies made this almost ridiculously easy for her. "He's everywhere. This could be bad-"
"It won't be that hard to lose him, in the forest," Morgana said, smiling as she watched Gaius pace back and forth across his chambers. "As for the castle, well, in here, we're fairly safe, so long as we keep our voices down."
Merlin nodded and turned his attentions back to the scrying bowl, swallowing, shaking off the feeling of foreboding he felt at hearing this.
That would turn out to be a big mistake.
"And…higher!" Merlin called out, standing back as he watched Morgana conjure a tornado.
"I can't! This is too high as it is!" It was about as tall as Merlin, and Merlin knew she could go higher.
"You can go higher!" Merlin yelled out, encouragingly, smiling as she pulled the tornado in on itself, so Merlin could only feel a breeze from it, despite being only a few yards away from it.
"I'd like to see you go higher!" She yelled back.
Smirking, Merlin held out his hands and took over the tornado.
Morgana crossed her arms defiantly, before her shoulders slumped as Merlin managed to make it reach the top of the trees.
"Can you make it go higher?" she yelled across the clearing at him.
"Yea – but someone might see it from far off, even Camelot."
She rolled her eyes and took it back, to which end it shrunk down to their height, and Merlin held out his hand, directing the tornado, somewhat, letting Morgana focus on controlling the windstorm, itself.
"You're doing wonderfully!" Merlin called out, as Morgana, herself, managed to raise the tornado up higher, smiling in delight, and Merlin, for his part, started tossing in some more sand on the edges to see the progress of the lighter outer breezes-
Suddenly, Morgana dropped her end of the magic completely, and Merlin had to force himself to bring the tornado down, himself, instead of just letting the winds and sand dissipate haphazardly, before turning to Morgana.
But she wasn't looking at him – she was staring in horror at something behind Merlin. Horror…and terror.
Dread in his stomach, Merlin turned slowly on his feet, eyes widened when he saw what she was staring at.
The bloody prat had followed him. Here.
He had shock and incomprehension scrawled across his face, staring desperately between Morgana and Merlin, a sword already in his hand, the blade's tip resting listlessly against the ground as Arthur shook his head, backing up from both of them.
"What the hell is going on?"
Merlin swallowed, and glanced back to Morgana, who took one look at Merlin's face and nodded.
"You're both sorcerers?" Arthur yelled, leaning a hand against a tree for support as he stared at them, misery clouding his eyes.
"…yes," Merlin said.
Arthur shut his eyes, and when he opened them, his face was the hard mask of the future king as he said, "So…was it the Druids? Did they corrupt you into this?"
"We were born this way, Arthur," Morgana said, stepping beside Merlin. "I was never kidnapped by the Druids – I went to them. My…my dreams – the ones of the future, they're prophecies."
Arthur stared at her, as she continued with, "Just…the night when I was supposedly attacked by sorcerers in my room…that was me. My magic went beyond my prophetic dreams into actual sorcery. I went to the Druids for some answers – and I found them."
Swallowing, Arthur turned a cold, cold, freezing glare on Merlin and asked, "And you?"
"I…I was born this way," Merlin said. "And…I've been helping her. Get her magic under control, teaching her…"
Arthur shook his head again, the hand on the tree coming to grasp his head as he stumbled back, grip on his sword tightening, before suddenly turning on his heel and running, running, running away – or…or maybe towards something. Like Camelot. Like the king.
"Arthur!" Morgana screamed after him, into the woods. But he ignored them, until he was gone, vanished behind the foliage.
Both sorcerers stared after him, before Morgana turned to Merlin, fear in her eyes. Not unwarranted.
"What's going to happen now?" she asked, holding out an arm for support as Merlin's knees wavered, and nearly buckled.
Taking a deep breath, Merlin wondered just when he and Morgana had come to depend on each other so much.
"We…let's go back. If worst comes to worst, I know some stealth spells so we can run."
Tears were nearly brimming in her eyes when she asked, "Do you really think it will come to that?"
Merlin was terrified to realize he really had no idea.
As it was, when they got back, they only got their shares of rolled eyes and sly glances. Really, this fake-affair thing was actually starting to get annoying.
Arthur was practicing with his knights, and apparently taking out his frustrations one them – several of them were badly bruised, and the only ones who were fighting Arthur or each other were the ones who also looked like they were having terrible days.
Morgana and Merlin both scurried back to her rooms, where Gwen took one look at their faces and sat them both down forcibly in the chairs by the fire and went off to get tea for Morgana's rooms.
For a while, they just sat in silence, before Merlin started playing with sparks again, and Morgana joined him, stopping only when Gwen came in, and resuming when the door closed again.
"So Arthur knows," Gwen said, keeping a wary eye on the pot that was pouring the tea into three cups without Morgana – who was doing it – actually touching it. "Well, no one was yelling about the King's ward or the prince's manservant being sorcerers, and the castle would be in quite a tiff if they knew…I mean, just because you're, y'know, so close to the king and all, indirectly at least…I mean…"
Merlin nodded, floating a cup into each of their hands. Sniffing his slightly, he thanked God for Gwen's foresight, having lavender included in the tea to help calm their nerves.
They were going to need it.
That night, Merlin admitted that yes, he really just might have a mental affliction because he still found himself carrying Arthur's dinner to his chambers, and braced himself to avoid a possible variety of weapons Arthur could and would throw at him, and cautiously opened the door.
"Dinner, sire?" Merlin called out, slipping in.
Arthur had been lying on the bed, fully dressed, staring at the canopy, but he sat up straight and looked at Merlin in surprise as he set down the dinner tray and stood there nervously, fidgeting.
"Do you have a bloody death wish?" Arthur asked after a moment, swinging his legs over the side of the bed as he stared at Merlin. "After what I saw, today?"
"I…I wanted to explain. Myself and Morgana."
And at the mention of Morgana, Arthur's face hardened. "You already did."
Merlin shook his head. "Look, Arthur…I'm sorry, that we lied to you. But you're the king's son – you…you have to understand…and I swear, we're not evil! I've never tried to outright hurt you with my magic, and neither has Morgana. She's always had swords for that."
And for a moment, Arthur's lip almost quirks upward, but his face hardens again as Merlin takes a deep breath to continue.
"I…I just…the only things I've ever used my magic for is protecting you and doing my chores. That's it. And Morgana just learned about her magic, so obviously, she hasn't done anything drastic, yet – she can't, she's still learning!"
"…protecting me?" Arthur asked after a moment, face melting back into incredulity.
"That time with the sorceress pretending to be Lady Helen? I slowed down time to push you out of the way, and made the chandelier fall on her."
Arthur stared at him incredulously, and Merlin continued. "With the Knight Valiant, I summoned the snakes from his shield so you could kill them. The Afanc – that was me, using wind and the flames from your torch to kill it. Lancelot managed to kill the griffon because I enchanted his lance so it could kill the beast. I cured Uther of Edwin's enchantments. Saved you from the Sidhe – that's what Sophia actually was – and I saved the Druid boy because he talked to me in my head and I got a sword to kill the undead which your father ended up using against the Black Knight…and in Ealdor – Will lied for me. I created those winds. And with the Questing Beast, I killed it, and I killed Nimueh to be able to cure you, and I trapped Sigan's soul back in the jeweled heart and kill the assassin in the jousting tournament…and the fires – I got the warning from Morgana. And that's not even all of it!"
Arthur stared at him, before leaning forward, elbows on his knees and face in his hands as he said, "And what the hell possessed you to come to Camelot of all places?"
"My…my mother sent me, to find Gaius – my magic was growing, and starting to get out of control."
"So Gaius knows?"
Merlin froze, not wanting to incriminate the man, but his silence was Arthur's answer, so Merlin continued with, "He's the one who…who gave me a book – to learn magic, and control mine…because…because he's never heard of anyone as powerful as me having this much innate magic. My mother said I was moving things with my magic before I learned to walk."
"You must've been one hell of a child to raise," Arthur said. "All of a sudden, I have a new respect for your mother."
And while that is actually said rather blankly, the joking words make Merlin smile.
"Yea, so – it's just that, and if you notice, how all my chores end up much better when you're not there supervising? It's because I use magic to do them."
Another sigh, before Arthur said, "And Morgana?"
"She…you know she's always had nightmares. Dreams about the future – they were starting to get out of hand, and she was starting to manifest magic. I found out where the Druids were, and she got some answers from them. She…I told her about my magic, and I'm teaching her."
"Teaching?!" Arthur said, looking back up at him. "I have a hard time imagining you as a teacher."
Merlin swallowed and nodded. "You're not going to kill us, are you? Or turn us in to Uther?"
"If I did?" Arthur asked, face blank, again.
"I…" Merlin rather got the feeling this was a test. "I know some stealth spells, and a few other…handy ones. I could get Morgana and myself to safety, away from Camelot."
Arthur stared at him, shaking his head to himself sadly. "It all makes sense, now."
Merlin breathed a sigh of relief. "So no executions in the near future?"
"Not of you and Morgana," Arthur said, looking up at Merlin. "Do something. With your magic."
"What?" Merlin asked.
"…what have you been showing Morgana?"
Without saying anything, the bread from the tray rose up into the air, and split itself in half, one half sinking back down, the other half floating in front of Arthur, who was staring at the bread in shock as it was suddenly steaming again, as if fresh from the oven.
Arthur carefully reached up and took it from the air, and studied it carefully.
"She's only just started learning, and really practicing – I've been practicing all my life, to be honest – but she's getting really good at it. She's not that powerful at all, really – she mostly just sees the future – but with that little power she does have…"
Arthur took a bit of the bread, chewed, swallowed, and nodded.
"So…can do…everything-" He gestured around the room as he ripped off another chunk of bread, and slipped off the bed. "With magic?"
Merlin nodded, and the clothes around the room all either neatly organized themselves into Arthur's wardrobe or folded into a neat pile on top of the chest by the door for laundry. All the candles in the room lit themselves, a log stoked the fire, the bed remade itself perfectly, drapes all pulled back, folded expertly and tied with nearly impossible knots.
By the time Arthur was done with his bread, which he'd eaten as he watched everything, wide-eyed, the entire chamber was sparkling with perfection.
Arthur slowly walked around the room, and Merlin kept his focus on the embers, making shapes out of them, to which end Arthur abandoned his inspection and stood by the table to watch, keeping his back to Merlin on the table's other side.
Then, Arthur breathed deeply as he sat down, gesturing at Merlin to sit opposite him. He took one of the plates, moved most of the fruit off of it, and put some ham and bread on it, sliding it to Merlin.
Merlin grinned at this. It was part of their nightly routine, that Arthur would make Merlin eat something and never believe Merlin when he said he'd already eaten, and maybe, things could go back to normal Arthur was willing to indulge in this.
Picking off grapes and eating them slowly, Arthur sighed and said, "I suppose I never stood a chance against her."
"Huh?" Merlin asked, after swallowing the bite of ham he'd been having.
"You two – your little 'affair'. I you're both sorcerers, well, I'm not surprised…"
"What're you…" And then, Merlin smiled. "You really are a clotpole, you know that?"
Arthur's head shot up, as Merlin got up and rounded the table, saying, "That was all a ruse! Everyone thinking we were illicit lovers would just give us more alone time to practice her magic. But I assure you, there isn't anything really going on between us. Right now, Morgana is probably bedding Gwen as we speak."
And Merlin couldn't help but feel smug when he saw sparks of hope in Arthur's eyes, as Merlin moved Arthur's chair with magic to face the fire. The prince didn't even notice.
Merlin grinned. Arthur was in the chair, and Merlin was leaning on the arms. A mirror of the position they were in the last time this happened.
And just like last time, Merlin leaned down and kissed Arthur, murmuring, "Yes," before sealing his lips against Arthur's.
For a moment, Arthur was shocked into stillness, but Merlin was insistent, pressing his tongue against Arthur's lips – and Arthur melted, and that really was the only word for it.
His lips parted, giving Merlin entrance as their tongues met, and he reached up with one hand, curling possessively around the back of Merlin's neck and pulling him closer, crushing their lips together, and it was awkward and sore and fumbling and absolutely perfect.
After a few moments, they parted, and Merlin's heart cracked at the sight of Arthur's eyes, so vulnerable and so bloody hopeful – and then it soared at the realization that it was just for him.
As Arthur's hands sank enough to frame his face, Merlin said, "You always had me, Arthur – I was right here."
And Arthur grinned, his own heart bursting if the way that smile was trying to grow right off his face was anything to go by. He pushed himself off the chair with his hands still on Merlin's face, opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. He smiled, and, hands slipping down to Merlin's waist, pulled him in for another searing kiss.
Higher up in the castle, Gwen was smiling as she and Morgana watched the scene unfold in the bowl of scrying water Merlin had left with her earlier that day.
"About time," Morgana muttered. "Bloody idiots."
"It's not their fault," Gwen said, gently. "They're men – they're born idiots. That's why they have us around to help them."
Morgana laughed as she pulled away, the scene fading from the water. "Fair enough. Now…" Morgana's hand landed on Gwen's waist, and Gwen obligingly pressed herself closer to Morgana as the Lady said, "Why don't we finish up following their example and head for the bed?"
"Happy to oblige, milady," Gwen said, walking backwards perfectly in tune with Morgana's steps, as their lips were sealed together.
Really, how the boys managed without this for so long was completely beyond her.
Maybe now, they could get things done…
…in the morning, anyway.
A/N: So, new request for comments! Tell me one thing you didn't like or think needs improvement. Because these kinds of comments are utterly FTW. ^_^