Title: Everything Is Never As It Seems
Genre: equal parts friendship and angst
Spoilers: up to 2.09; MAJOR spoilers for 2.08 "Sins of the Father" and 2.09 "Lady of the Lake"
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin friendship (possible subtext if you squint, but no more than the show)
Summary: Set after 2.09, "Lady of the Lake." Merlin does magic to save Arthur's life…again. But this time, Arthur finds out. How does Arthur deal with the fact that the person he depends on and trusts the most has been keeping such a secret from him? Mostly Arthur's PoV, but will shift at times to someone else's.
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC.
AN: Title shamelessly stolen from the song "Fireflies" by Owl City, which I listened to A LOT when I first starting putting this together. Awesome song, definitely worth a download. Also, I'm American, so I'm gonna try not to abuse British slang by using as little of it as possible, outside of what I've heard on the show.
Everything Is Never As It Seems
~~Prologue: A Day Like Any Other Day~~
It should have been the same as any other day. It certainly started out the same as any other day.
"Merlin, where is my breakfast?"
"Merlin, why hasn't my horse been saddled properly?"
"Merlin, stop making so much noise or you'll scare away the hunt!"
"Merlin, I never cease to wonder at how someone as clumsy as you still hasn't managed to fall on his own sword."
"Merlin, where's my dinner?"
"My apologies, sire," Merlin answered hurriedly as he pushed open the door to Arthur's chambers, tripping over his feet and nearly sending Arthur's dinner to the floor in his haste.
"It's about time, Merlin," Arthur huffed in his best impersonation of a petulant five-year-old.
Merlin quickly placed the tray carrying Arthur's dinner on the table in front of his master. He removed the lids from their plates, steam issuing forth as the aroma of fresh venison filled the air, making both of their mouths water.
Expecting Arthur to come up with ways to criticize the food like he usually did, Merlin was surprised when Arthur chose instead to tackle his food like a dying man. Merlin tried not to smile as Arthur spent the next five minutes eating furiously. At least his mouth was too busy chewing to criticize.
Finally, Arthur paused in his attack long enough to start breathing again.
"You know, Merlin, normally I would ask what took you, but this time you actually had me wait so long that I'm too hungry to bother."
This time Merlin couldn't help it. He smiled as Arthur took a quick drink and continued attacking his food with a fervor he usually reserved for attacking those who threatened his kingdom. Yes, today was just like any other day.
Which is why what happened next didn't surprise him.
Merlin shivered as what felt like a strong, cold breeze shot through the room. Arthur, on the other hand, kept on eating like nothing had happened.
Merlin's smile disappeared, his body stiffening as magic that was not his own seemed to course through him.
"Something's coming..." Merlin said quietly, though he hadn't meant to say it out loud.
"Sorry?" Arthur asked, not looking up from his food.
Merlin slowly crossed the room, his blood tingling in his veins. He glanced out the window, dreading what he might see.
He had been right to be afraid. Looking outside, he saw all the castle guards collapsed on the ground. Sleeping, dead, Merlin didn't know for sure. But he did know they were in trouble. He'd been able to sense the use of other sorcery in the past. This time he could feel the magic tearing at his insides, trying to pull him under, maybe to do whatever it had done to the men outside. But Merlin fought it. He had to warn Arthur.
He turned around, but before he could open his mouth, the door to the room blew open – nearly exploded open – throwing Arthur out of his chair and Merlin into the wall, where he knocked his head and collapsed to the floor next to Arthur's bed.
Merlin looked up, the room spinning around him. Standing in the doorway was a figure Merlin didn't recognize. The face was hidden under the black hood of the owner's cape, but the hand reaching out toward Arthur hinted at both the age and sex of the elderly sorcerer beneath it.
Merlin tried to stand, but he had hit his head rather hard, and he couldn't keep his feet under him. He fell back down against the wall and watched as the stranger whispered hoarse, icy words which sent Arthur flying across the room into the wall opposite Merlin. The sorcerer kept his hand pointed at Arthur, holding him up against the wall a foot off the ground.
Merlin watched as Arthur struggled, his hands at his throat, trying to free himself from the invisible grip that held him, but to no avail.
The stranger slowly removed the hood with his other hand, and though Merlin did not recognize the old man, he knew what the smile spanning the ancient features meant.
He was here for blood. Arthur's blood.
The sorcerer proceeded toward Arthur, ignoring Merlin. It seemed as though he wasn't aware of Merlin at all.
"Who are you?" Arthur asked, breathily, as though the man had his hand around Arthur's windpipe.
"It matters not who I am," the sorcerer answered in a harsh whisper. "But I know who you are, Arthur Pendragon." The voice was full of malice and hatred.
"What do you want with me?" Arthur asked, struggling harder.
"You, Arthur? You are merely a means to an end."
Merlin had no idea what the man was talking about, but he didn't have much time to question it. He watched in horror as the man pulled a long dagger from within his robes and pointed it at the crown prince.
"Goodbye, Arthur Pendragon."
Merlin had no time to think, so he didn't.
Arthur struggled against the wall, clutching at his throat. He felt like he was being choked by an invisible hand.
"Who are you?" Arthur asked raspily.
The hand clenched harder around his throat as the man answered him.
"It matters not who I am. But I know who you are, Arthur Pendragon."
Arthur glanced over the man's shoulder. Merlin was collapsed on the floor. He was still conscious, but he was clutching at his head as he tried to stand. It looked like the sorcerer hadn't noticed Merlin's presence. It was best to keep it that way.
"What do you want with me?" Arthur asked.
"You, Arthur? You are merely a means to an end."
Arthur had no idea what the man meant by that, but he wasn't afforded much of an opportunity to wonder. Before he knew what was happening, the man was pulling a dagger out of his robes, pointing it straight at his heart.
"Goodbye, Arthur Pendragon."
What happened next seemed a blur, yet Arthur would remember it quite vividly later on.
Arthur heard words that he didn't understand, but they weren't coming from the sorcerer in front of him. He glanced over at Merlin just in time to see his servant's eyes turn gold. He turned to where Merlin was pointing and watched in wonder as one of his swords glowed blue before rising up into the air, flying across the room, and burying itself deep in the sorcerer's chest.
Arthur collapsed to the floor as the stranger lost his hold on him. The man glanced around the room, clutching at the sword in his chest. His eyes fell on Merlin, and Arthur saw the strangest of looks cross the man's face. He couldn't tell if the sorcerer was angry, surprised, or impressed.
Arthur didn't know what the word meant, only that it was addressed to Merlin.
Arthur watched as Merlin lowered his hand, his eyes returning to their normal color as they widened at what he had done.
It looked like the stranger wanted to say more, but all he could manage was a choked groan before he collapsed to the ground.
Arthur turned back to Merlin, still breathing heavily. Merlin glanced up, but when his gaze met Arthur's he looked away as if in shame. Though his eyes had returned to their normal brilliant blue, all Arthur could see was the golden color they had turned before Merlin had flown Arthur's sword across the room and killed the man in front of him by barely lifting a finger.
Up until this point, Arthur had seen Merlin as the most loyal and trustworthy servant, and perhaps friend, he had ever had (though of course he would have died before he admitted it to Merlin). Now, he could only see one thing.
The man Arthur had trusted with his life was a sorcerer.
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