A/N: The full prompt from kinkme_merlin, Meme #7: Freya/Merlin, Arthur/Merlin. Arthur finds a goodbye letter from Merlin when he planned to run away with Freya. He feels hurt, betrayed, confused. Either he keeps it to himself or he confronts Merlin about it. Smut as a resolution is always welcome, but I like angst too.
"Merlin!" Arthur yelled out into the physician's chambers. But neither of them were there.
Sighing at his stupid manservant's silence, Arthur went up into Merlin's room, and smirking, settled in to wait. Assuming Merlin would be back within the hour, Arthur could surprise his idiot with his presence. Maybe even demand Merlin pay for his absence and making the prince wait. A blowjob would do quite nicely...
That lasted about five minutes, after which boredom settled in. Smirking, he remembered some of Merlin's words from a month ago, and reached under Merlin's bed with a searching hand, and...yes!
He smiled in triumph as he came up with Merlin's magic book. Maybe he could finally get a better idea of this magic thing over all, see how much of what Merlin blathered about was true and how much he'd just made up or lied about.
Flipping his way through it, Arthur found himself flitting across the spectrum of emotions as he came across all the spells and information in the book, ranging from small things like lighting fires to larger things like the theory of immortality. Though weirdly enough, that was treated as a curse. Occasionally, bits of paper would come flying out, and Arthur would read them - mostly Merlin's own variations of the spells - and replace them gently.
Except for what appeared to be a letter at the end of the book. Mostly because it was apparently addressed to Arthur.
Frowning, Arthur set the book aside and opened the letter.
Arthur, By the time you'll get this, I'll be gone. Eloped to be exact - I've fallen in love with this most amazing girl - Freya. She's pretty and sweet and cares so much for people and the world around her, and I've never felt like this for anyone But there are a few things I want you to know. For one, you know this girl - as the bounty hunter's girl. She's a Druid, and cursed. And I'm sure you're thinking she's enchanted me or something, but she can't have - see, I'm a sorcerer. I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you, so many times. However, for all the obvious reasons, I couldn't. The first day I got to Camelot, I saw a man beheaded for using magic to help his crops - and it only went downhill from there. I was born this way. It wasn't something I ever chose - hell, most of the time, I wish I was never born with this - and I swear, I never hurt you, Arthur - all I've ever done is protect you. But you never knew, and no one cared, even those who I really am sorry, for everything. But I can't take this - any of this - any more. We're going off into the wild, some place far away, where we can just Peace was all I ever wanted, Arthur. I Please believe me when I say this - I'm going to miss you. I think I may have even loved you, myself, at one point, though I don't really know, and I doubt I ever will. And nothing will match up to Freya. All I had ever done with my magic is help you and protect you. But I think you're doing that just fine, now - you don't need me. Never will. Please live a good life, be a good king, and while I know this is asking a lot, try not to be too much of a prat. And please - don't hate me. -Merlin
By the time you'll get this, I'll be gone. Eloped to be exact - I've fallen in love with this most amazing girl - Freya. She's pretty and sweet and cares so much for people and the world around her, and I've never felt like this for anyone
But there are a few things I want you to know. For one, you know this girl - as the bounty hunter's girl. She's a Druid, and cursed. And I'm sure you're thinking she's enchanted me or something, but she can't have - see, I'm a sorcerer.
I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you, so many times. However, for all the obvious reasons, I couldn't. The first day I got to Camelot, I saw a man beheaded for using magic to help his crops - and it only went downhill from there.
I was born this way. It wasn't something I ever chose - hell, most of the time, I wish I was never born with this - and I swear, I never hurt you, Arthur - all I've ever done is protect you. But you never knew, and no one cared, even those whodid know about my magic. I'm sick of hiding my true self, sick and tired of it. But with Freya, I can be myself. I don't have to worry about the lies, I don't have to live in a web of deceit that I never asked for or wanted.
I really am sorry, for everything. But I can't take this - any of this - any more. We're going off into the wild, some place far away, where we can justbe - be ourselves without this constant cloud of fear over our heads that we have had to live with over our heads thanks to you and your father, where we can just live out our lives in peace.
Peace was all I ever wanted, Arthur. Iknow you understand.
Please believe me when I say this - I'm going to miss you. I think I may have even loved you, myself, at one point, though I don't really know, and I doubt I ever will. And nothing will match up to Freya. All I had ever done with my magic is help you and protect you. But I think you're doing that just fine, now - you don't need me. Never will. Please live a good life, be a good king, and while I know this is asking a lot, try not to be too much of a prat.
And please - don't hate me.
Arthur sat there on the bed, letter clutched in his hand, shaking as he stared at it.
How the hell had he missed this?
He heard distant footsteps, and heard Gaius and Merlin arguing in the man's quarters about something involving Thursday and pots, and a moment later, a huffing Merlin appeared in the doorway.
"Arthur!" he greeted with a grin, before his smile froze as he took in Arthur's shocked and hurt expression. When his eyes drifted to the letter, his expression fell completely. "Arthur...?" he asked, slowly.
"When was this?" he growled. "When were you going to run off and elope with some harlot-"
"She wasn't a harlot!" Merlin yelled out immediately, shutting the door behind him with defensive anger on his face.
"Then who was she? When was this? Why the hell were you-"
"She was the girl who was cursed to turn into a Bastet at midnight," Merlin said. "Halig's bounty."
Arthur's eyes widened as he remembered facing her. "You were planning to run off with that monster?!"
Merlin's face shut down, cold fury kept behind a mask of professionalism Arthur had seen only once before.
"Was there anything you needed, sire, to cause you to have to-"
"Don't you dare, Merlin, don't even think about it!" Arthur demanded. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"She wasn't a monster, either," Merlin said. "She was cursed."
"What's the difference?" Arthur demanded. "She turned into a vicious creature each night and killed-"
"She never wanted to," Merlin growled out. "She hated that she did so, but it wasn't under her control, because like I said, someone had cursed her-"
"That doesn't matter - she would have killed you the first night you two were alone-"
"No, she wouldn't have - around my magic, she could control herself, at least enough not to kill me. I could keep her down until the curse would wear off."
Arthur took a deep, harsh breath, and said, "So that was your plan? Run off into the wild, make sure she's locked up at night? You call that..." he consulted the letter. "You call that 'living out our lives in peace'?"
"Compared to Camelot and being constantly persecuted for something that wasn't our fault all our lives, yes!" Merlin yelled. "You and your father were hunting us down like fucking animals and-"
"I never hunted you down, or treated you like an animal!"
"What about everyone else?" Merlin asked. "Just weeks before all this, you thanked me for reminding you how evil all magic was. You hated it. And you were still carrying out your father's orders to have people burned for little more than being born. Excuse me for having had trouble believing that!"
Arthur stared at Merlin. "Did you really believe I cared so little for you?"
"You thought all magic was evil, Arthur - it wasn't difficult for me to believe that as soon as you discovered I was magic, you would believe I was evil, too."
"...you...you seriously thought that I thought so little of you? That I would've been so quick to dismiss our friendship?"
Merlin slowly nodded. "The first day I got here, I saw man being killed for helping his crops. Inn keepers were killed just for giving a bed for a night to man who later turned out to be a sorcerer. Your father was ready to burn a child, Arthur, and you nearly helped. I was terrified. If I had ever judged you wrong, it would've meant my death. If you hadn't found out otherwise, I admit - I still would not have told you by now."
Merlin was leaning against the door, now, hands behind him, looking suddenly more defeated than anything else, as Arthur took him in, wondering at this entire thing.
"So...you thought living with a girl who you would have to lock up every night was more peaceful than living here with me?"
Jaw tight, Merlin ground out, "Yes."
"...and was she really the love of your life?"
"And you - yes," Merlin said.
Arthur shut his eyes and swallowed as he remembered the Bastet. And all he remembered was the night she killed those guards, and Arthur had managed to injure it, and had been wary of the it next day-
"Are you saying I killed the love of your life?" Arthur asked, not looking to Merlin.
"...yeah - you did," Merlin said, thickly. "One of them."
Arthur opened his eyes to see silent tears down Merlin's face.
"You never told me," Arthur said.
"What good would it have done?" Merlin asked. "She's dead, anyway - it doesn't matter, anymore."
"We clearly, it does," Arthur said, gesturing towards Merlin's tears.
Merlin immediately brushed them off with his sleeve, standing up properly as his face shut down again in a manner Arthur had come to hate for a variety of reasons. "No, it doesn't. What did you need, Arthur?"
Arthur couldn't even remember. "Yes, it does, Merlin. "You...I...I'm sorry."
Merlin gave him a long, hard look, before shaking his head. "No, you're not."
Arthur frowned. "You did your duty to Camelot and got to have me in the process. Please, Arthur, don't lie to me, not about this."
"I'm sorry about the pain it caused you, at least," he said. Merlin couldn't refute that.
Merlin swallowed, and remained frozen by the door, looking ready to shatter.
Sighing, Arthur refolded the letter and tucked it back inside the book, and the book under the bed, before pushing himself back on the bed and opening his arms wide.
Instantly, he found himself with an armful of Merlin, pressing his face into the velvet of Arthur's jacket as he trembled in the memory of one of the man he apparently almost loved killing the girl he actually loved.
And yet, Arthur couldn't quite find himself to resent Merlin for it, and just continued to rub Merlin's back, waiting for tears that Merlin, in the end, never shed.
"So...I'm her replacement?" Arthur asked, after a moment, unable to let that one bit go. "Is that...did you ever even love me?"
Merlin immediately shot back, staring at Arthur in desperation and shock. "Of course I did."
Arthur gave him a somewhat pointed look, and Merlin's face darkened. "Do you want me to ask about Gwen?" And then Arthur jerked his face away. "Look, Arthur...it was a long time ago. I moved on. So obviously...it is possible, for you both to be the loves of my life. Besides...she's not gone, completely, anyway. I've told her about you, what you're really like - and she approves, actually."
Arthur frowned. "How, exactly, is she dead, but not gone?"
Merlin swallowed. "The...the lake - that's where I put her body in a boat and burned her once she died. But the magic on her was powerful - when it sank...she became a spirit, held by the lake. I visit her, sometimes."
Arthur blinked. "Is that why you disappear into the forest so much?"
Merlin slowly nodded. "She seems to like you, even when I tell her how much of a prat you are."
Arthur shut his eyes. "And even with her still around, you can love me?"
"Yes," Merlin said. "You can love me with Gwen still around, so don't talk."
Clenching his teeth then relaxing, Arthur just pulled Merlin tight to him as he lay them down. "Take me to see her, sometime, will you?"
"...or not," Arthur said, remembering that he had been the one to kill her.
"It's not that," Merlin said. "It's just that...I'm worried about how you will handle it. You'll get jealous, Arthur, or ridiculously guilty, or...I just don't...you'll meet her eventually, anyway - I don't want to rush that is all."
Not finding the energy to fight this, Arthur relented and just said, "Sleep, then - we both could use this...and - I really am sorry."
Merlin just huffed into Arthur's chest, before saying, "Thank you."
Unable to say more, Arthur just wrapped his arms protectively around Merlin, and started making plans to find this lake. Merlin wasn't the only one he had to apologize to.