Title: The One Who Is Beneath (PART ONE)

Author: starjenni

Disclaimer: I don't own anyone!

Pairings: Merlin/Arthur friendship or could be seen as pre-slash

Warnings: Merlin being evil. It may make you cry.

Rating: T

Spoilers: For like, every episode I guess!

Summary: "You are the Merlin who can poison a friend to save a kingdom. You are that Merlin, that darker Merlin, that deeper Merlin. You are the one who is beneath. But now you are him all the time."

a/n: My first Merlin fic, so please, if you enjoyed it, review and/or give constructive criticism!

The first time Morgana sees it, it is a mere fluke, almost a nothing, it is almost completely missed - and yet it is enough to sow the first seeds of suspicion.

It starts in the courtyard of Camelot, and it starts like just another ordinary day - she and Gwen are on their way to visit (the hated, the hated) Uther, and Merlin bumps into them as they do, his arms full of armour and that ever-ready, ever-pleasant smile on his face. They stop and converse as they do, about everything, about nothing, laughing and joking as they always do…And then there is a shout, a cry, and they all turn to look, and as they do, they see a horse running straight towards them, out of control and wild-eyed, his owner screaming for them to look out - !

She sees Merlin's eyes flash only fleetingly, and only out of the corner of her eye, and the beast pauses and quietens mysteriously, trotting back to his owner as peacefully as a lamb, and when she turns to look at Merlin, he is gazing down at the armour in his arms, and his reflection shows momentary but unmistakeable signs of guilt.

It makes sense, of course it does, now that she really thinks about it. Merlin has never been ordinary, not really, he has always been a little too sharp, a little too focused to be a simple servant. She has often wondered why he is here at all, why he is serving Arthur at all, when he could easily apprentice to do something else. She thinks of all the misfortunes that he has stopped striking Camelot, and she remembers how many of them were magically inflicted, and she wonders how she could have been such an idiot, so blind - because he is nice, because he is unassuming, because he is about as threatening as a summer's day, no one has realised.

She goes to Morgause that evening, and they meet in a shadowy glade, under crowds of trees, alone but for them, and, surrounded by the sweet scented breeze, she tells her half sister what she suspects.

Morgause is, of course, full of action and fire and enthusiasm, and her blonde-white hair bounces around her shoulder, and her eyes glint in the blue shadows as she speaks. "We must find out for sure."

"I will keep an eye on him."

"He could be important. He could help us. We could use him to kill Uther and be free of any suspicion in front of Arthur."

"Not him. He is too…nice." And then she thinks further, she thinks about how he poisoned her, how he took that step into darkness, into evil, just briefly, half a step even, but he did take it, he did do it, he killed her to save the kingdom. He has the potential.

"Fine out more," Morgause urges. "We can change his niceness." Her eyes reflect the moonlight, and her lips are tinted silver when she smiles, and Morgana nods and says that she will, of course she will.

It is more difficult than she first imagined it would be - Merlin, although she caught him easily enough, is actually more prudent about using magic than she realised, and he has obviously trained himself for over two years now to be so; and of course he would be, she thinks, to be so close to Arthur and yet absolutely unsuspected. It is marvellous, it is a beautiful deception, and what is so wonderful about it is that most of it is accidental. Merlin has guile, but he does not often use it, not really, what he is is what he is, people just assume that everyone who wields magic should be conniving, sinister, strong - like she, in fact. Just like she. But Merlin is…different. Even to those with magic, he is different.

Eventually, she lures Arthur into a rather complicated trap, involving a forest, a highly enraged griffin and a few wyverns on the side, and she stands in the background and watches with relish as the future king is just barely saved by the glowing eyes of a certain manservant…

And she thinks got you.

"He has promise," she tells Morgause the following night, in the shades of the forest. "If he thinks either Camelot or Arthur is in danger, than he will kill to protect them. But somehow arranging that he will finish Uther for us…it will be harder."

Morgause paces around the glade, her footsteps soft on the already dew-dropped moss. "A change of event will not work for us," she says crossly, and then suddenly her eyes glint icy blue fire, and Morgana knows she has it. "What we need," Morgause says, "Is a change of nature."

The potion is clear, and it comes in an unassuming glass bottle, but Morgause hands it over with extreme care and attention, as if it is the elixir of life itself.

"Be sure he drinks it," is all she says, and Morgana nods and pockets it.

She drugs his wine - it is almost too easy to do - and then sits in the golden glow of the great hall and watches as the world moves and breathes around her. She watches Uther as he laughs and jokes with Gaius, she watches the way his eyes crinkle up at the corners and she wonders how he can be so at ease, so cheerful, when he has done so much, when he has killed so many, for nothing, for nothing they can help, for nothing, and she promises to herself that he will die soon.

She watches Arthur chatting enthusiastically with Leon, notes idly how his hair is even more golden in the candlelight, and thinks how she will kill him after Uther, and how she will make sure he knows it is her, so that she can see the betrayal and shock in his eyes as he falters and falls and dies at her hand.

And then she watches Merlin, lower down the hall, as he talks with the other servants, and she sees him smile, and drink the wine, and smile some more, and she loves how he is smiling as he is drinking his downfall, and though a part of her is sad that he, a fellow sorcerer, must die, another part is glad, because he has no right, no right at all, to be so good, to be so generous and kind and unassuming - not when she has become rotten to the core.

Well, she thinks, forcing herself to smile at a joke of Uther's and taking a sip of her own wine, soon he will be exactly like her.

He is in the court, and Uther is there, Arthur is there, Morgana, Gaius, everyone, they are all present, and the sun is shining through the windows like it does, everything is the same…

But there is a young girl in the middle of the floor, she couldn't be more than twelve, and she is snivelling and crying, and he wants to go to her, to make sure she is all right, but he cannot, because this is a court, and the authority here cannot - will not - be crossed.

Uther is speaking. "I find you guilty of using witchcraft - " and she interrupts and she begs, "No, I swear, I didn't - I didn't know - " but he ignores her.

" - And you shall therefore be sentenced to death. Guards!"

And the guards pluck the poor creature up from the floor like so much rubbish, and she is crying and begging and screaming "someone help me!" and no one will, no one cares, and as she is dragged away, she meets his eyes and sends him one long, last begging look, but he cannot do it, he cannot cross that line, though he teeters and totters on it, though he wishes more than anything that he could, he cannot cross it, and she is dragged away, and he turns and looks at Uther -

And then he wakes into darkness, and there is something new in his heart, and it is hate.

Merlin sits there, bolt upright, the bedclothes pooling around his knees. The moon is glimmering in through the window, gilding his small room with a silver shine, but it does not soothe him, he cannot stop breathing heavily, he cannot stop hating.

Uther must die. He suddenly realises it, clear as the morning bells in his ears, and he wonders how he did not know it before. Uther must die, because he cannot stay alive while he is doing such evil, it should not be allowed and why did he save him, why has he saved him previously, what was he thinking, because whatever it was, it is unthinkable now, something has changed -

He gets out of bed, because resting now, when there is this fury setting him alight, would not be right. He feels different, his mind feels full of new and dangerous and dark ideas, and it is wonderful, he welcomes them because what was he doing before? What has he been doing? Running around, trying to save everybody, when everyone else has been carrying on as usual? What is the point of saving the day over and over and over when no one else cares, or appreciates it, when they all revel in their own evil anyway, when nothing will change it?

He walks to the open window and looks out onto Camelot and catches his reflection in the glass…and stares.

It is not a trick of the moonlight, it is not a hallucination.

His eyes have turned pitch black.

Someone has left a long, dark robe outside his door, and for some reason he wants to wear this more than anything, especially far more than his old, now frightfully dull attire, so he changes and it feels…right.

He is barely surprised when he leaves Gaius's room to find Morgana and Morgause standing outside in the corridor, waiting.

They go to the forest glade together.

"What have you done to me?"

"Made you realise the truth."

"You've made me feel like a different person."

"Oh, no. No, no. You're not a different person. You are the same person. You are the Merlin who can poison a friend to save a kingdom. You are that Merlin, that darker Merlin, that deeper Merlin. You are the one who is beneath. But now you are him all the time."

"What do you want from me?"

"Your help. In killing Uther."

Hatred at the name, hatred, so much hatred, fury and more fury -

"Why me?"

"Because you want to."

"You're lying. You want me to do it so that suspicion does not fall on you."

"So long as Uther is dead, do you care?"

And he realises that he doesn't.

Thanks for reading! Part two up very soon! :)