AN: Originally written for a contest, but there was some confusion on the deadline so I didn't make it. So instead I'm using this for a claim "16 – Sleeping Beauty" for 100_fairytales on Livejournal. This will not be continued.
The Sleeping Prince
Never tell the Lady Morgana she has a brother complex.
At least, Merlin should have never told her that now that she's evil, helps her nefarious sister Morgause from the shadows, and has gone from one year of caring and fretting over Arthur to another year where she would rather him dead so she can bring about Camelot's destruction.
Of course, Merlin doesn't always say the right things, or do them, as he learns later on, and he has learned (quite badly in fact) that Morgana doesn't like insinuations that she has a thing for Arthur - even more so now. (Because Arthur really is her brother, and she knows that even though Arthur doesn't.)
And perhaps Merlin should have not spoken this in front of Arthur, as a joke of course, but Merlin feels slighted and Morgana's presence always makes him itchy, and well, Merlin quickly realizes his mistake when Arthur's face turns red with fury. Soon after, Arthur promptly leaves, presumably to retreat into an empty room somewhere to find comfort in Guinevere's welcoming arms.
The Lady Morgana, though, is not done with Merlin. In fact, she's not done with any of them and channels her anger in the usual way, and that is to go crying back to her sister until they both concoct another way to humiliate Arthur and Camelot.
She's tried before - by making Guinevere out to be a witch who has be-spelled Arthur into loving her, and Merlin's had to clean up that mess fast; however, Morgana is suspicious of the explanation, and that worries him because she hasn't given up on exposing Arthur and Gwen yet.
Merlin should have known. (Well, and it's partially his fault because there's Morgana again, lurking in the corners watching Arthur and Gwen's every move.)
His fears come to pass and Merlin wakes up early that morning to a frantic Uther in Gaius's room. Merlin suspects Morgana instantly; Prince Arthur has not woken up, and no method by anyone, the knights or the king, will wake him. Gaius is summoned to inspect him as Merlin follows behind, listening with annoyance as Uther once again suspects sorcery, and he fears the 'old man' has returned to wreak vengeance on them again.
Only Merlin knows it's not the old man.
When they arrive in Prince Arthur's chambers, Gaius leans in to observe Arthur, and right away Merlin senses magic. This time Uther is right to suspect it because in the time he was coming for Gaius's help, an odd growth of rose vines has sprung up around Arthur's bed and is slowly wrapping around him, the bed frame, and reaching around the walls of his room.
"It's a sleeping spell, sire, and not an easy one to break," Gaius says right away, and Uther sighs with exasperation and anxiety.
King Uther paces around the room a bit, and Merlin watches as he appears weary and frantic. He waves his hands in the air and looks at Gaius impatiently. "Well, isn't there anything you can do?"
Gaius folds his hands in front of him and says calmly, "I'll have to inspect the symptoms more closely, sire, but I'm afraid this solution can only be tied to the spell itself."
"Do you recognize it?" Uther asks, both suspicious and hopeful. Gaius glances at Merlin, knowing full well that Merlin recognizes the spell too. In fact, Merlin would guess that any amateur sorcerer worth their salt would know about this spell, not necessarily how to invoke it, but what it is.
"It's from a children's story, my lord," Gaius says, almost embarrassed that the king hasn't figured it out yet. "I don't know how someone could concoct such a thing, but it is possible. After all, the original story uses magic and some would say the story is more historical than folk, especially in the Old Days."
Uther narrows his eyes, and he looks back at Arthur. The rose vines are getting worse. "It can't be," he says, realization dawning on him. "This... is that spell?"
"I'm afraid so, sire." Gaius pauses with a sigh. "Prince Arthur has been cursed into an eternal sleep, and only true love's kiss may be able to wake him from it."
Merlin bites his lip, and King Uther is already out of the prince's room, presumably ready to send for all the princesses and refined ladies in the realm. Gaius, though, turns to Merlin with one eyebrow rising, and they both know there is only one possible person that can break the spell; however, King Uther will not approve of it for sure.
If that happens, if Gwen can break the curse, then they will all be in that same mess all over again - exposing Guinevere and Arthur's secret romance to the king.
Merlin grimaces at the thought. "I'll go find Gwen." He thinks maybe they can do this in secret, Gaius can tell the king he was wrong, and that he just healed Arthur with some herbs.
Gaius stops him, pulling on Merlin's sleeve. "Wait, Merlin. I have an idea." Merlin is curious as Gaius actually smiles.
Gaius sends word for Princess Elena. Uther does not even think to send for her, not since her disastrous visit to Camelot and how Arthur adamantly refuses to marry her while she agrees. However, Gaius is sure Elena can help them.
Princess Elena arrives in the evening with one servant, and Merlin recognizes her among a sea of other princess and ladies waiting for their own quarters in Camelot. Merlin has spent most of the day bustling around and settling everyone in, and he's happy to see a familiar face among all the snotty up-turned noses and haughty expressions.
"Oh, Gaius, it's good to see you again!" Elena says, and she's walking much more stable since the Sidhe was released from her body. She appears much gentler and at ease with herself, and her bright smile is refreshing as well as dazzling, enough for Merlin to stop and dumbly stare at her.
Gaius elbows him and Merlin recovers, helping the lady's servant with her things.
Gaius takes step at Elena's side, and she takes his hand with worry. "How is Arthur? Is he alright?"
"The prince is still sleeping, but as I've told the king, the spell can be broken...it's just that we need your help," Gaius says, and Elena frowns.
"I do not understand how I can help," she says regretfully. "Arthur and I already agreed that we do not love each other."
Gaius nods. "Indeed, but I'm hoping you can help us anyway." Gaius turns and meets her eyes seriously. "As you probably guessed, Arthur already has someone he loves, but King Uther does not approve." Gaius's voice drops to a whisper. "It is someone not of royal blood, and if the king finds out it's her, she may be banished, and it will devastate the prince."
Elena watches him with sympathy, and she squeezes Gaius's hands, speaking resolutely, "We cannot have that happen. You have helped me so much. The least I can do is help you in return. What can I do?"
"The other princesses will be trying to kiss Arthur in order to wake him," Merlin chimes in, and Elena turns around to listen. "We will have the girl Arthur loves break the curse, but we need you to take the credit."
"Me? Won't that...force us into a marriage again?" Elena shakes her head in disagreement. "There must be another way."
Gaius pauses in the hall on the way to Elena's bedchamber and Merlin realizes there is more to his plan. "There may be," he says resolved. "Come on, let's settle you in, and then Merlin will go fetch Gwen."
In addition to finding Gwen, Merlin keeps an eye out for Morgana lurking in the shadows and discovering their plans. The last thing they need is Morgana ruining everything, when Merlin knows Morgana is sure that not one of the ladies or princesses visiting is going to break Arthur's curse, and he'll continue to sleep forever until Gwen exposes herself.
Merlin doesn't want Gwen to sacrifice herself for Arthur's sake, and he knows she would do it too, in a heartbeat.
He finds her in her room fretting and pacing about, and when she opens the door to Merlin, she pulls him in to a big hug and draws him inside.
"Is there any news?" Gwen asks frantically.
Merlin closes his eyes regretfully, and Gwen becomes more worried. "You know what this spell is, Gwen. Arthur loves you and you're being lured into the open."
Gwen shakes her head. "Then, I have no choice. I have to kiss him."
"Gwen, Uther will banish you if he finds out you're the one that Arthur loves to break the curse. It won't matter to him if you save him; the only thing that will matter is that you're..."
Gwen swallows an anxious lump in her throat. "... a commoner." She snorts. "Really, will nothing open this man's eyes?"
"It doesn't matter now," Merlin says calmly. "You won't have to take credit for this." Merlin grins widely. "Gaius and I have a plan."
Merlin watches as Gwen starts to relax, and she drops her arms at her sides and agrees, following Merlin into the castle. Hoping that he doesn't run into Morgana, Merlin takes Gwen to Gaius's room where he and Elena are waiting.
"King Uther is shuffling the first round of girls in after supper, and he leaves for a council meeting and keeps the guards at the prince's door while only a select few like royals and some servants are allowed to visit," Gaius explains as Elena and Gwen listen intently.
"That evening will be so busy with people coming and going, we think it's a perfect time for Gwen to cure Arthur," says Merlin. "I'm also going to drop some bait to Morgana so she'll show up, hoping to expose Gwen."
"When Arthur wakes and the king asks who last kissed him, Princess Elena can come forward saying she was there to visit that night, but saw other ladies leaving too," Gaius explains and turns to Elena. "You can be vague about your descriptions of the ladies and what they're wearing, and then Merlin will come forward and say he saw the Lady Morgana visiting Arthur too."
Merlin turns to Gwen with a toothy grin. "The Lady Morgana will not resist seeing Arthur to expose Gwen, but Gwen and I will be ahead of her. We'll bait her with a conversation in the halls, and she'll follow, but before Gwen gets there Arthur will already be awake."
"So this is all I have to do, visit Arthur and say I was there?" Elena asks. "That seems simple."
"We want to plant the idea that you could be responsible for Arthur's cure, but not to be explicit about it. The king will have doubts about you two again, that much is sure, but it won't be like you were definitely caught waking the prince."
"The whole thing will be too vague for Uther to make a decision, and if Elena says she saw other ladies coming to visit Arthur, a number of ladies will come forward, even if it's not true, just so they can get a chance to become Queen of Camelot," Gaius surmises.
"So what about that part where Arthur is in on it too?" Gwen asks.
"Well, we're hoping he'll be in on the plan, in a way, after you wake him earlier. There's that period of time where the first wave of ladies are done unsuccessfully waking him, and then Uther will bring in servants to straighten up the room, clean the roses off, and assign guards before he leaves for council," Merlin explains. "Then we'll slip in, Gaius will say he needs to check on Arthur, and then you can wake him, Gwen. When Arthur wakes, we'll explain most of it to him, and that he has to pretend to be asleep when Elena comes in and Morgana comes to look for Gwen."
"You think he'll agree to that?" Elena asks, and Gwen chimes in beside her.
"Arthur will do anything to keep us a secret," Gwen says confidently, her voice turning distant.
"Well, then let us get going," Gaius says, as the others wait for the plan to spin into motion.
Merlin is hopeful that their chance to help Arthur will work. Gwen has shown to be still wary of Morgana, but mostly she's acted rather shocked by the whole realization that Morgana is no longer a friend.
Still, she's suspected things herself, but news that Morgana was behind her and Arthur's exposure to Uther has made her see things in a clearer light.
Merlin is just glad that Gwen is on their side, and Morgana seems to suspect nothing.
As intended, Merlin finds Gwen in the hallways holding back real tears as he goes to comfort her. He feels Morgana's presence behind him, baiting her as acts like he's up to something to help Arthur as usual.
Gwen begins fretting about Arthur, and she acts convincingly as Merlin consoles her.
Gwen says, "I can't help it anymore. I have to do something. Tonight I'll go visit him late when I am done with my duties."
"Gwen, please, think about this," Merlin says, and he tries not to smile at the perfect act they're both putting on for Morgana. "If the king finds out..."
"I don't care about that!" she cries, pushing Merlin away. "I know I can save Arthur, even if it means... having to leave him."
She storms away, and Merlin holds out a hand to stop her. Morgana comes out from behind him, quickly hiding her smirk that Merlin almost doesn't see, and she glides past him with a glare, going after her maid.
Merlin watches her with visible contempt, but he's cheering inside because their plain is moving accordingly.
Princess Elena and Gaius wait outside Arthur's bedchamber in the hallway as the last group of ladies leave the room disappointed, chattering away at their dashed dreams of becoming Queen.
As Uther makes arrangements for the guards that evening, he leaves Arthur's room and Gaius approaches him before he goes to his meeting.
"Gaius," he says, almost bewildered from exhaustion and worry as his son still remains in a deep sleep. He notices Princess Elena and furrows his brow. "Princess Elena, I wasn't expecting you."
"Your highness," she says bowing. "I know Arthur and I may have decided to part ways on marriage, but I do still consider him a good friend, and I have come to see him through this ordeal."
Uther nods, still frowning as his expression remains distant. "That is very kind of you."
"Sire, Princess Elena has agreed to accompany me while I check on Arthur's health. I am sure she will not be a bother," Gaius says, and Uther waves his hand and lets them pass by. When Uther is gone, Merlin and Gwen come out from the corner, and when they are sure that Morgana is not around, everyone but Merlin filters inside, while he stays to keep a lookout.
Immediately, Gwen goes to Arthur's side, and Elena and Gaius watch as the girl caresses his cheek and kisses his hand. "Oh Arthur," she says, and she leans down, hesitating with fear that it may not work, but then she quickly kisses his lips.
Suddenly, Elena gasps as they witness the rose vines disintegrating, and Arthur groggily begins to wake as the spell wears off. Arthur looks up at Gwen, who is smiling in relief and squeezing his hand as he starts to realize where he is and that people are watching him.
"What the?" he asks tiredly, and he sits up in his bed as Gaius makes his way over.
"I don't have time to explain," Gaius says. "But trust me, sire, you've been enchanted, and the only way to break the spell was Gwen's kiss."
Arthur watches, trying to absorb the information as Gaius rattles off. "Whatever happens, Gwen cannot take credit for waking you. Her life and her time with you depend on your continued secrecy."
Arthur blinks blearily and licks his lips, but he nods in affirmation. "I assume that is why Princess Elena is here."
"Just trust us. We have a rouse to keep me out of the spotlight," Gwen says. "Just..." She leans down and kisses him tenderly again. "...Go with it. You have to pretend to be asleep. Elena will leave and then Morgana will visit..." Arthur furrows his brow in skepticism. "She doesn't know the plan so don't tell her. Just...trust us."
Arthur, still tired and hazy, turns to Gwen and their eyes meet. She feels him squeeze her hand reassuringly. "I understand." He leans back softly onto his bed, and he closes his eyes, still sleepy, which will convince anyone that the spell is still active despite the wilted roses.
"I think I see Morgana coming," Merlin says quietly, poking his head out the door. Gwen bustles away from her sight under Merlin's care, and Gaius stays with Arthur as Elena sits at his side. Merlin and Gwen poke their heads out behind a pillar in the hall as they watch Morgana float into Arthur's room as Elena then leaves.
Merlin sees the alarm on Lady Morgana's face; probably surprised that Elena is in Arthur's room when she's expecting Gwen instead. Elena bows before she leaves, and Gaius greets her at the door.
"He's still sleeping," Gaius says, noticing a new change of guards accompanying her to watch Arthur for the night. "Feel free to visit him. I'm done for the evening." Morgana gives Gaius a light nod before striding inside.
Merlin suspects she probably already knows the spell is broken, but Morgana cannot admit it, certainly not to Uther. She needs to play the king's dutiful ward that does not know magic; however, Morgana realizes it by now, and Merlin catches her as she leaves Arthur's room in anger.
Her attempts to split up Arthur and Gwen have failed again, and she must know that even Gwen has gone away unscathed this time.
Arthur wakes the next morning, and Uther is ecstatic, though thoroughly confused. He calls for audience with the lords and ladies to meet in the throne room for a special announcement, and he asks for the lady to come forward who broke Arthur's spell.
"The reports are vague, my lord," Gaius says. "It cannot be determined just when the spell was broken, only that it was last night after you left. I also cannot tell you how quickly the spell broke either, for it could have worn off in minutes or in hours. Many ladies visited the prince that night," Gaius explains.
Uther rubs his chin thoughtfully, and the ladies that visited Arthur last night have already stepped forward, with Princess Elena included.
"Highness, I do want to point out that the Lady Morgana was there as well," Merlin says boldly, and he notices Uther's face go white for a moment and then regain its color as he composes himself.
Uther waves it off. "Surely, it cannot be Morgana. She is like Arthur's sister."
"My lord, I did not kiss Arthur last night, if that is what he is implying," she states, and she throws Merlin a sneer before looking down at everyone in the room again. "If anyone could possibly have lifted the curse it would have been Princess Elena. She was the last woman I saw leaving his room last night."
All eyes in the room are on Elena, and Merlin guesses this is just what Morgana wants, hoping Uther will see merit in their marriage again.
"Is this true?" Uther asks, and Elena nods. "Did you kiss my son last night while you visited him?"
Elena reacts very well to all the daggers on her as the women glare, and as she starts to stammer nervously, Merlin wonders if that's her true nature or an act. She carries herself really well now but seems to bumble convincingly as Uther starts to look tired with her rambling.
"I do not remember, sire, to be honest. I remember being with Gaius, dozing off a bit in the chair next to Arthur, and then, I took his hand to comfort him...though I might have kissed it, I can't be sure," she says, and Uther rolls his eyes.
"Well, I can't be sure either," he says tiredly. "Gaius, would a kiss to the hand break the spell?"
"I do not know, sire. I suppose it's possible," he answers, but he adds, "Though a strong spell like that would probably need a kiss to the lips, depending upon the depth of the true love."
Uther looks positively annoyed at this point. He glances around the room at all the hopeful, smiling ladies, and his gaze lands on Elena making a stupid face. He sighs tiredly and rubs his eyes.
"I suppose we will never truly know who broke the kiss," he says, casting a side look to the ladies who are ready to confess. "Nor can we believe anyone if they do come forward."
"Sire, I think you should just be grateful that your son is safe and the curse is broken," Gaius says. "The love will come later, naturally of course."
"Of course," he says, and after another string of thankful platitudes, King Uther dismisses all his guests and subjects, and he sinks into his chair with an angry pout. Morgana seems to share his disappointment, and Arthur excuses himself, saying he's eager for practice or sport.
"There you are," Arthur says, finding Gwen delivering some laundry in the royal halls, just a few steps away from his bedchamber. She almost drops the laundry in her arms at his surprise, and then she relaxes as he takes the basket from her hands, and draws her away into his room.
He grins at her, as she looks anxious again. "Don't worry," he says in a light-hearted tone. "I don't think anyone saw us."
"No evil magicians lurking about in the shadows?" Gwen makes a wry joke, and Arthur's smile turns wistful as he puts the basket down on his bed and turns to draw her into his arms. He places a kiss on the top of her head, and she quickly sinks against him, closing her eyes at the feel of his warmth.
"Brave Guinevere, you saved me again," he says, pulling slightly away to meet her eyes. "Gaius filled me in on the rest of the details this morning." He pauses, his brow furrowing. "You really think it was that old man again?" He laughs a little and shakes his head. "I will never understand it."
"Well, the important thing is that the spell is broken, and Gaius says he will speak to your father about stricter security," Gwen says.
"Yes, but why does someone want to expose us? I know my father will not like it, but... what is there really to gain?" He pulls her into another hug as she clings to him.
"Arthur..." Gwen says against him, and he draws slowly away, meeting her eyes. "We really do have to be more careful."
"Yes, I know," he says in a delicate voice, stroking the stray curls of hair by her ear. "I really thought we were; that is why I'm so perplexed on how this happened again."
Arthur notices Gwen's worry. "I wonder... if someone knows and they're using it against us," she says, and she gives him a peculiar expression that maybe Gwen suspects someone, but she isn't exactly forthcoming. Or maybe it's his imagination and fear running wild.
He frames his hands around her face and leans down, capturing her lips for a quick kiss before drawing it out, taking in as much of her as he can in this rare moment.
"Very soon we will not have to hide, Guinevere," he whispers against her cheek.
"I know," she says, her voice still fearful. He feels her tear against his own cheek and he moves away, lifting his hand to wipe it away. Gwen gives him a nervous smile, the one that he loves, and she settles against him again.
He holds her closely until she reluctantly has to get back to her duties, but if were up to Arthur, he'd hold onto her forever. Some day, when he is King, he will.