A/N: Welcome to another one-shot! Merlin is my new fandom to write a multitude of little one-shots for, haha. This one, like one of of the other one-shots I'm posting today (For You) is a Arthur-finds-out fic, because I love them. Yes, yes, it's been done before. I don't care though. I just really like the concept. This can be read as slash--which was definitely, definitely intended--or as friendship, depending on what you get out of it. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. Never have, never will.
There is absolute silence in the room, now that the truth is out and lingering like a tangible shadow on the floor, the walls, the ceiling, their skin. Mentally, Merlin reviews the events that have led them here, playing through every single moment, searching for what he could have done, what he could have changed, where he made those key mistakes.
It isn't beyond his noticing that Arthur's hand is on his hilt, fingers tightening and loosening around the leather pommel, as though he cannot decide whether or not to draw. He's not sure if this is a good thing or not.
And he's too afraid to meet Arthur's eyes, so he just keeps looking at those long fingers as they grip and release, tighten and loosen, grip and release.
"You've been the one all along." He flinches at the sudden break of silence, flinches at the sharpness of Arthur's voice. It's beyond denying now, and he can only shrug. The words—if there are any, and he's not sure there are—lie blocked inside of him somewhere. "You…." He risks looking up, and instantly regrets it. He may be beyond the point of all denials, but looking up now is like poking an enraged griffin with a stick.
Of course, knowing that doesn't help him any as Arthur comes bearing down upon him, cheeks bright with anger. And despite everything—despite that dangerous, glinting look in Arthur's eyes—he doesn't really expect for Arthur to hit him. He just knows that one minute he's blinking and the next he's sprawled on the ground, his head hitting hard against the floor, his cheek throbbing.
It's funny to him that the first accusation coming out of his prince's mouth isn't you're-a-sorcerer or you-use-magic-and-are-evil but you-lied. Is lying the greater crime here?
Arthur stands over him, arms folded, scowl etched onto his face, dangerous, dangerous glimmer in his eyes. It's like seeing the flames that he's sure will consume him as soon as Arthur gives the word. He doesn't try to get up, just lays there limp on the ground, staring up, trying to summon emotion and just feeling numb. He's sure he should be scared, maybe hurt, maybe some other mix of emotions. But really he's just staring into Arthur's eyes and seeing the flames and feeling nothing.
"You lied," Arthur repeats.
"I lied," he manages to say.
Arthur looks away, his hand gripping tight around the hilt of his sword again, his jaw clenching. The tightness of his face makes his expression severe, makes the high arches of his cheekbones even higher, and makes the fullness of his lips even fuller.
"Get up, sorcerer."
He sits up slowly, looking up. "Do you want me standing so that you can hit me without having to lower yourself and hit a man already down?"
"Are you even a man, or are you just a sorcerer?"
He bites the inside of his cheek hard and climbs to his feet, facing his friend. "How many times have you used your sorcery against me or my kingdom?" Arthur bites out.
"None," he replies simply.
"How many times have you lied to me?"
He shifts. It's the coldness in Arthur's voice that cuts deep. He glances down, unwilling to try and meet the prince's eyes again, not now. "A lot."
Arthur's fingers on the hilt, tight and loose, tight and loose. White knuckles and then fleshy pink tones, then white again.
"And how many people have you killed?"
He jolts a little, his eyes darting up. Arthur is staring right at him, glaring straight through him. He's going to melt from the heat of that gaze any minute now. He opens his mouth, closes it again, and now the emotion starts to come. Fear like a little flame in his stomach, feeding on everything inside of him, growing with potential to overcome everything else. And right alongside it is a twin flame, brighter, stronger, growing—anger.
"How many people have you killed, Sire?" He snaps, and Arthur is both taken aback and angry. He rushes on before Arthur can break and come at him or call for the guards or make some rash decision. "How many people have you killed in the name of your kingdom, or to save your own life, or to save your people? Every person I've killed was for the same reason, and I've hated every time."
"How many people have you killed for the sake of your sorcery, Merlin? How many have you sacrificed to fuel those powers of yours?"
He grits his teeth. "Every single person I've killed I've killed for you. To protect you, to protect the kingdom, to protect Gwen and Morgana and Gaius, and even your damn father." He sees the tightening of Arthur's hand on the hilt, of his lips and his eyes and his jaw; everything about him is tight and wound and he'll either unleash or break right in two. "I've never used magic to harm a human who was not first a threat. I've never hurt someone who wasn't trying to hurt someone that I cared about." He half-turns, glancing away. "Dammit. You don't know the hell I've been through trying to protect you."
Arthur's hand tightens around the hilt, and this time it doesn't unloosen.
He closes his eyes. There's part of him that almost wants to laugh, now that it's come to this. "Do it, Arthur. Kill me. Call the guards, throw me in the dungeon, burn me at the stake. Do it."
He waits for the sound of the sword sliding from its sheath, for that familiar hiss of metal sliding smoothly against metal.
"Magic is dangerous," Arthur says, but he doesn't sound quite so sure. He opens his eyes, and there's still the tightness, still the dark anger, still the flames.
But Arthur's hand is at his side, limp and loose.
"So is the sword at your belt," he replies. "It all depends on your intentions when you pick it up to use it."
"And what are your intentions, Merlin?"
He meets Arthur's blue bright fire gaze. "To protect you, Arthur. That's all they've ever been. To protect you, and be at your side, and serve you, and make you a great king."
Arthur takes a step forward. "You will never lie to me again, Merlin."
He almost, almost, smiles. "I can't make any promises."
The look he gets in return is one that promises a long stint in the stocks. Which, all things considered, is a lot better than being executed.
He'll take it.
The little button is calling your name. It says "click me". It says "review, review, reeeevvviiiiewww." It might turn homicidal if you don't follow its wishes. I'd be careful.