Disclaimer: I don't own a prince. Or any warlocks. :(
A/N: Hello everyone! Well, with the rapid approach of series 3, (one week! Woop woop!) I've been cranking the Merlin fic muscles again! I actually wrote most of this a month or so back at the start of my Merlin marathon I had with my youngest sister, but I've only 'beefed' it up in the last few days! It's a post-S2 fic, set a few weeks after the dragon palaver (just to get us in the mood for S3!). I hope you enjoy it- this isn't a slashy fic, though if you squint and tilt your head a couple of lines have potential to be- it's more M/M really.
Requiem For The Truth
Camelot stands on the brink of destruction; no one can escape it.
Everything is closing in and immanent war is felt like prickles on the back of your neck.
You will unite or you will fall.
Arthur picked up his armour, brushing his flaxen hair off his face in the morphed reflection of the silver surface. His brow suddenly furrowed, spotting a fleck of dirt under one of the chest plates, scratching it off with his short nails and flicking it away, huffing in annoyance to himself. Merlin. . .
He shook his head, placing the heavy metal back onto the table next the gleaming length of his sword and his bag packed full, before moving slowly past his bed. He leant against the wall of his window alcove, his hand on his chin as he wistfully stared out of the window; still no sign of Merlin.
The prince looked down at the destruction of the courtyard below, pieces of rubble staining the stone floor like ink splashes on parchment- the thick, grey snow of the fire's ashes only adding to the image of destruction beneath him.
Camelot could've been destroyed. But he'd stopped it; he'd killed the dragon.
He winced as he rolled his shoulder backwards, the throbbing ache of over-worked muscle burning for an instant as he squeezed his eyes shut. Where the bloody hell is Merlin?
Thoughts floated like clouds around his mind, his dark-haired manservant filling his vision momentarily, creasing his brows as he remembered that he'd not seen him all morning. Annoyance was briefly subsumed by worry, as he suppressed the quick, sinking ache in his chest when he realised that maybe he was hurt. . . he had a knack for getting himself into trouble.
Despite the prince's cool outer shell, he worried about Merlin, especially over the last few weeks with the loss of so many lives, Balinor included. When people died in situations like this, Arthur would always focus on the bigger picture- the death toll a blood stained number as his mind blocked out any thought or feeling that could weaken him; Camelot must be protected.
Merlin always dragged himself down it seemed, his heart torn apart by every single lost life, tears fallen over people he barely even knew. Increasingly, Merlin's sky blue, unjaded eyes would become clouded with grey, troubled and alone like the eyes of a dragon. They'd be flecked with all sorts of emotion, a wisdom that seemed incongruous with his appearance.
Sometimes as he sat beside his father in the throne room, he'd watch Merlin; Arthur would see him looking brokenly at Morgana's empty chair, the fear and the pain there drawing the breath from his body momentarily. Arthur had not asked what had happened between him, Morgana and Morgause as he'd been fighting a losing battle.
He had once chastised Merlin for his private meetings with Morgana, but he feared now that he had underestimated their connection; their relationship. The sorrow in his eyes was the same he used to sometimes see in Morgana's- a heart clenching, haunted look claiming her when he teased her as a child about her nightmares. The slightest mention of her now would make Merlin visibly wince; his mind a house in which she was the ghost.
Arthur would only catch those looks for a second, until Merlin found a smile in his pocket and nailed it to his face; it rarely reached his eyes.
The prince sighed a little to himself, moving over to his bed side and pulling out some spare cloth from a drawer and winding it steadily around his palm, only realising a few seconds earlier that the wound had reopened, the flesh raw and red. He moved back to the window and held up his hand to the pale light, the bandage squeezing at the pain.
You're an enigma, Merlin. He had said, and it only just hit him how true this really was. He knew so little about him, and in those few occasions where Arthur had opened up about himself, Merlin always managed to shy away; sometimes he managed to say something meaningful without somehow ever revealing anything about himself. His eyes were the crystal cages of his secrets.
I'm an open book.
I don't believe that for a second.
He thought perhaps his secrets were boyish, his little tricks and fancies. But Arthur had only recently realised that it wasn't just secrets he kept locked away, but a terrible isolation too. Although he was known as "Merlin, Prince Arthur's manservant", they both knew he was not that at all- Merlin was not defined by his serving role to the prince- Arthur knew intuitively that he was something much, much more. He gritted his teeth; he could never quite put his finger on it.
Do you know how many times I've saved your royal backside?
At the time he'd smirked it away, another jovial Merlin jibe poking him in the ribs, yet now it niggled away at his brain now like a hungry worm. Merlin was always there, wherever he was, protected by nothing other than the clothes on his back. The one person without the armour or the training always seemed to get through it all; Arthur had taken him to face the dragon with nothing but a sword. It hadn't struck him as ridiculous and utterly foolish at the time, but looking back on it. . . why did he?
To Arthur now, it seemed ludicrous that he'd take an unarmed servant with him into battle, yet he always seemed to get through unscathed. There was a peculiar safety, luck even, surrounding him, but the prince could not grasp what this was exactly.
Because although he could barely admit it to himself, he knew it was true; he cared about Merlin. He'd always been jealous of Gwen and Morgana's friendship, growing up he'd never held onto one servant for long- they could not bear the insufferable young, blonde prince for long- and he'd always kept that somewhat stoic edge with the knights. Although he now blamed his "arrogant prat" personality, as Merlin would say, for his lack of friends, he'd hoped he'd shed most of that now. Instead, he now felt like he was some sort of "trophy son", everyone respecting and praising, or "feeding his oversized ego" (Merlin, again), which was impenetrably frustrating.
Loneliness is a throne, he'd once thought, because although he had the admiration of hundreds, could he ever have true friends?
He hadn't thought so. Yet it was looking like a possibility now since someone actually had the guts to come along and challenge him. . . and call him a 'prat'.
Arthur liked to think he'd changed for the better though, much of which was down to Merlin. He was the closest thing he'd had to a friend- their dynamic emulating that of the playfully aggressive, teasing older brother and the twinkly-eyed, cheeky younger one.
Brother? That metaphor had certainly crept up on him. Connection. Blood. Trust. . . .
He mentally swiped the thought away like it was a dark moth, one that had been lurking in the corner of his mind for a fair while. The corner of his heart.
It was soon forgotten though as Arthur couldn't help but let a half smile crook his lips as he spotted a flash of blue and red darting across the courtyard. He watched the dark haired boy look up into the dusty grey sky for a second, pausing as he advanced towards the castle steps. Arthur watched in curiosity as Merlin gazed upwards, the boy suddenly clenching his eyes closed and gripping his hair as if overwrought by some pain. The moment was soon over though as he turned quickly towards the heavy oak doors.
Today. Arthur decided, grabbing his bag and his sword, a foreboding slither creeping down his spine; today was the day he'd start to try and make everything right and clear.
I want you to trust me.
I want to find out the truth.
The truth will set us both free.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed that little one shot, it'd be lovely to hear what you all think! :)