Escape-Escape-Escape-Escape-Escape.The mantra ran through Merlin's head as he wrestled with the cuffs in the prison cell. Eyes wide and glancing everywhere, listening to everything, he tried every spell he could think of to free himself, to remove himself from the cell, to escape, to vanish, to transform, anything. But the magic wasn't there. He couldn't do anything. Well, the magic was there, but Merlin couldn't access it. It was fuzzy and distant. He suspected the cuffs. The room appeared to be a normal blank cell for holding. Uther's hatred for magic had apparently resulted in some sort of science-fuelled blockage for magic-users. He was stuck.
But if he didn't get out of there soon, he'd be missing his head. Or resemble a piece of swiss cheese.
He swore under his breath as a distant door opened and struggled more furiously, trying so hard to be quiet. Scooting to the back of the cell, he tucked himself into a corner, unusual blind panic taking over his mind as he tried to make himself as small as possible. Keys jangled closer and closer just out of time with the stomp of industrial boots. He focused his gaze on his feet and breathed. The footsteps came to a measured halt outside of his cell.
"Look at me."
Merlin looked up, confident that abject terror was present on his face.
"So we've finally caught you. Merlin," King Uther's cold voice prefaced. "You're remarkably young."
"It seems they work, Devin," Uther said, a pleased note entering his voice. "You cannot escape?"
Merlin gave his head a short shake, wondering what the hell was going on.
"You cannot perform...magic?" he spat the last word.
Again, a negative shake.
That silence again. Merlin looked at his feet.
"I've heard of you, Merlin."
"Of me?" he squeaked, glancing up.
"Yes," Uther said, clasping his hands behind his back. "I've heard you have great power. And if even you cannot escape from my cuffs, then I suppose my science team did a good job. Don't you think?"
"Please don't kill me, Sire! I know I did magic. I'm sorry! I'm really sorry, but I just—my mother! I have to care for her! I'm small, I can't do hard jobs without a little help. I'm not stealing or doing anything evil—please! I just—"
"Shut up," Uther said casually with a wave of his hand. He looked at Merlin again, an expression akin to curiosity burning beneath the expressionless face. "I want you to show me."
Merlin gaped. "What?"
"Do you have a mental affliction or something? Show me what you can do."
"No, you fool," Uther rolled his eyes, "tap-dancing. Of course magic!"
"Stand up," he snapped. "Devin, get those cuffs off of him."
The man named Devin scooted forward into the newly opened cell and hauled Merlin to his feet rather easily.
Devin looked back to Uther for guidance.
"Merlin." The man caught his eye. "I assure you that if you vanish from this cell, I will hunt you down until you are caught again. Then you will sit in this cell for the rest of your life after watching me kill your family, your friends, associates, people you have spoken to kindly... you get the picture."
He paled and nodded, mouth suddenly dry. "I...understand..."
"I understand, your majesty." He dropped his head and waited for Uther's lackey to remove the cuffs. "What do you want me to do?" he asked miserably, voice more of a croak.
Uther shrugged. "Anything. Harm me or my associates, however, and the same threat applies."
Lifting his shoulders slightly, Merlin protested, "I wa-wasn't going to!"
Uther's stare was hard and cold.
With a sigh so small it was almost internal, Merlin lifted a hand and whispered a word, flames dancing upon it.
The flames transformed into a bird, flitting through the cell. Some of the security detail backed away as it came close, but Merlin had it transform to a lizard that scaled down the bars and then vanish as it touched the ground.
"Is that the limit of your power, sorcerer?" Uther's voice lifted with scorn.
"No, but I don't know what you want of me?" Merlin replied a little heated.
"Something distinctly more impressive."
Refraining from rolling his eyes heavenward, Merlin whispered again and slowed time, stepping out from underneath Devin's hand on his shoulder to the opposite corner. As it sped up again, he heard snatches of the security barking, "Where did he go! Shit!"
It was only when Merlin barked in the form of a dog that they froze and Uther's gaze fell on him again. "Interesting..."
Merlin trotted to the centre of the cell and sat. He waited while Uther's mind calculated whatever punishment would be his.
"Change back," he ordered.
Merlin clambered to his feet when he was in his own form again.
"You are capable of more?"
"More? Your majesty?"
"More types of spells. More brain cells as well?"
"Yes," he hissed.
"Carl, shoot him."
Merlin yelped, barely having time to guide the stale air around him to form a shield. "What the hell was that!" He stomped a foot as the bullet froze and Merlin directed it to the floor.
"Watch your tongue," Uther threatened calmly.
"Can you do the same for others?"
"Protect them like that? Yeah."
"Can you do what you're told?"
Merlin glared. "Most days."
Uther nodded. "Very well then. Gentlemen, leave us."
Merlin paled again, having forgotten to whom he was speaking. "Wait! Wait, I don't—"
"Shut up, Merlin."
He fell silent and waited for the tromp-tromp of boots heading away. Away from rescuing him. He felt them go, thinking of all of the people that he loved and all of the people he was leaving behind. His mum, Gwen, Will, Delilah, Joe, Morgan, Peter—
"You have two options, Merlin Emrys."
His gaze returned to the king's face. "Yes?" he demanded with breathless hope.
"One," Uther began sternly with a small nod, "you will be executed publicly as a traitor, body dumped into a grave after being shot by a firing squad."
Merlin swallowed in terror, feeling his knees begin to give way.
"Two, you will be executed in private, declared a traitor, and you will cease to exist. Then, a specifically skilled man will enter my employ to protect my son from any and all harm—from a distance—never speaking to anyone, ever, because you do not exist." Uther arched an eyebrow. "Am I clear in your two choices?"
Merlin nodded, not daring to breathe and hoping he didn't piss himself.
"Now. Will your execution be public or private?"
"Private," he exploded at a whisper. "Definitely private."
Uther nodded, seeming pleased. "Excellent. Then, Merlin Emrys, from this moment, you will cease to exist. Your code-name is 'Falcon.' That is all you shall respond to."
"Can I... Can I write a letter to my mum? Last rights, you know?"
Uther hesitated, narrowing his eyes.
"Tell her I love her one last time?" Merlin pleaded, hating the reedy sound to his voice.
"Very well," the king relented.
"And my best mate Will?"
"That is all."
Merlin nodded his understanding. "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you, really, your majesty. I'm very thankful for this opportunity. I—"
His mouth snapped shut.
Lifting his hand to show the keys to the cuffs, Uther stepped closer. "If you do not follow my every directive, I will have you killed."
"You couldn't be clearer, your majesty."
"Good. You will be trained in the art of being unseen—"
"Oh, that's not necessary. I can make myself invisible," Merlin proffered.
"Invisible?" Uther seemed surprised.
One point for Merlin. "Well, not invisible, but such that people don't notice me."
"I see. All the same, you will also be trained in the use of fire-arms and protocol. And you will never enchant me."
"Okay. I understand."
"You will be provided quarters wherever my son is staying," Uther instructed, stepping out of the cell and gesturing for Merlin to follow. "He is not to know that you exist. If you are ever found or arrested, I will not acknowledge you, because you do not exist. You will not be reinstated if you are found. So speak to no one. Your job will be to protect my son from any and every specifically skilled attacks as well as anything that happens to slip by the other security detail. Understand? The first sign that you are not dedicated to your job, you will be executed. Am I making myself clear?"
"Crystal," he whispered, desperately feeling the need to wet himself again. "Um..."
"No questions. You will—"
"I really need to use the loo."
Uther sighed and took his elbow like he was reluctant to touch him, guiding him to a small closet with a toilet. "If you disappear—"
"I promise, your majesty. I won't. You can trust me."
"I should hope so," the king retorted. "After all, you will be guarding my son."
Merlin nodded and slipped in the door, sighing with relief. When he was finished, he exited to find Uther talking to two security men.
"Kay and Percival will take you to where you are staying, prep you on my son's habits and manner, and feed you. You will not evade them—"
"Or else I'll face a horrible death."
The small smile was cruel, yet amused. "You learn fast."
"I aim to please, sire."
"Very well. Away with you then. Make sure no one besides myself, Kay, and Percival see you."
Merlin nodded and found the two intimidatingly large men gripping his biceps as he was moved, rather than walking himself, towards an unknown location. "Um. Hi! I'm Merlin. Sorry, Falcon. I'm Falcon."
They were silent.
"Nice to meet you?"
More silence. Merlin huffed. It must be a trend.
It was much later that night—morning really—when Merlin was finally allowed to sleep, the light peeking through his tiny slit of a window up near the ceiling. It certainly was private. He now knew more about England's 'Golden Child' than he ever wanted to, Percival and Kay having been more than informative and thorough. Merlin shuddered at the thought of Arthur's toenails as he crawled onto the cot, too tired to even eat the meagre fair they'd set on the bed-side table. He fell asleep rather immediately after he closed his eyes.
Only to be woken at 8 A.M. By a rough, insistent Kay.
"Time to report to duty, Falcon."
Falcon? Then he remembered, sitting up and stretching.
"Breakfast is on the table. Today you learn everything about fire-arms."
"Um... Just so you know," Merlin yawned. "I'm pretty nervous around guns. They make me uncomfortable."
"Well," Kay said with a grim smile, "they're going to be your best friend, starting today."
He grimaced and shoved the piece of toast into his mouth before standing. "Do I get a shower? Change of clothes?"
"Later," Kay promised. "Let's go. And no funny business. Or else—"
"Everything and everyone I love will be destroyed and I'll die a painful death. I know," Merlin rolled his eyes.
Kay blinked and then smiled. "Yeah."
It was about a quarter past four when Merlin collapsed onto the bed again. Now he really did know everything about guns. Specifically the way a rifle shot back against his shoulder when he wasn't holding it properly. His thin shoulder was paying the price. Struggling to his feet again, Merlin wandered into the closet loo that was attached to his room and stripped, the hot water delicious after spending all day feeling dirty. With all of the hubbub about his magic, he didn't dare magic himself clean either. And anyway, a shower always felt better.
After being clean, he picked at the rest of the food on the plate, sitting down at the utilitarian desk to write his letters. Hopefully, Uther would deliver them. When it neared 8 P.M., he slipped back into the cot and slept. Training began again at 8.
After a week, everyone was apparently satisfied that Merlin was ready. His uniform consisted of a solid grey suit, sensible trainers, and a personal ear piece directly to the king. Never to be used, of course, for menial chatter, and Uther didn't want to hear a peep out of him unless Uther contacted him specifically.
Starting the next day at six, he would have to follow the prince around, be his invisible shadow and make sure nothing terrible happened to him. And since Merlin wanted to keep his head, that's what he would do. He walked past a servant to make sure that his spell was working and then slipped into the prince's bedroom with Kay who, it appeared, was designated waker-uper. That was one job he was glad he didn't have.
"Good morning, your highness," Kay intoned. "Your father expects you for breakfast in an hour."
A blonde head, golden rather literally, rolled from one side of the pillow to the other, a groan emitting from the bed. "Kay, I thought I told you I wasn't having breakfast with him this morning."
"Apparently, sire, your father disagrees."
At this, the head turned into a nude chest sitting upright. "Of course he doesn't agree. He wants to have breakfast with me."
"And how is that such a bad thing," Merlin snorted to himself, having never known his own father.
"Who said that!" Arthur's eyes narrowed as he glared around the room.
Merlin clapped a hand over his mouth, stepping back from his surveillance at the window and threw Kay a wide-eyed look. He mouthed his apology in response to the man's hard glare.
"Someone said something!"
The maids kept their heads down and the two other security members exchanged glances. "I'm sorry, but I didn't hear anyone else say anything," Kay said firmly, moving to hand the prince a shirt. "However, I do know that your father will be unhappy if you are late to breakfast. I believe he has some things to discuss with you about your upcoming birthday party."
Arthur glowered. "Fabulous. Absolutely fantastic. Probably the guest list." He slipped out of the bed and accepted the shirt, changing quickly into a pair of slacks. Disappearing into the loo, Merlin twiddled his thumbs, certain there were no snipers aiming in the prince's window, and certain he was going to get a dressing-down by Kay later on for his slip.
The prince returned, hair now neatly groomed, and face looking freshly-washed. "Do I need anything?" He folded his arms, managing to look incredibly bored, but also insanely condescending.
Mental note, Merlin thought sourly: the prince is a prat. So much for the 'golden child.' Will would laugh his head off if he heard—Merlin shoved the thought away, face tightening. But he couldn't talk to Will anymore, could he. He sighed instead, half-listening as Kay listed a litany of things that Arthur had to do that day. He followed aimlessly to the dining hall, standing in the corner before remembering his job. Protect the prince. So he made his way around the room, peeking out windows, using his magic to search for ill-will before giving Uther a smile he hoped convey the all-clear.
He must have gotten it, for he nodded slightly and then paid Merlin no more attention. Instead, he reprimanded Arthur about his list of personal 'friends' he wanted to invite to his party and said that there was no way that Gwaine Innonce was coming. The last bash had been a terrible event, and Gwaine's social manner was disgraceful and plebeian.
Arthur huffed in response and rolled his princely eyes with the excuse that Gwaine was fun, couldn't he just come? Arthur would keep a keen eye on him, of course. He was a friend, after all. And he couldn't just un-invite him, could he?
They argued over several others, but Uther relented and Arthur had somehow conned his father into allowing all of the guests. The boy would make an excellent politician, Merlin thought, leaning back against the wall.
Eventually, however, it was time for Arthur to leave for Uni. Where Merlin would follow him. His ears pricked at this information, and he scurried after the prince after a head-jerk from Uther accompanied by his usual intimidating glare. With a mental shrug, he grinned. Free education! His mum would be pleased. Except that... she would never know. She thought he was dead. The thought stirred up the panic he had been entirely too busy to worry about while he was being trained.
Following Arthur blindly into the limo, he trained his eyes to look for potential threats. But there was no magic astir. This close, he went for a total invisibility spell.
"Percival, I'd really appreciate it if you would keep more distance than usual," Arthur drawled.
"May I inquire why, sire?"
Merlin blinked over at the prince. Just 'no.' No explanation? He really was a prat...
"Then I cannot."
"You're my bodyguard, are you not?
"Yes, your highness." The man seemed unfazed by this path of discussion.
"Then you should listen to me when I give you an order."
"Your father gives me orders, sire."
Arthur threw up his hands and then tucked them into the opposite side and sulked.
"Face'll freeze like that," Merlin muttered, rolling his eyes towards the window.
"Percival, was that you?" Arthur accused immediately.
The man in question merely arched a well-trained eyebrow and shook his head. "I've said nothing, sire."
When Arthur looked down into his bag, pulling out his ipod, Percival sent him a murderous look. Merlin ducked his head, apologetic and nodded when Percival made a lip-zipping motion.
"Well, my ipod's not on, and I am not receiving a call. I know I heard someone say something. It wasn't your phone, was it, P?"
"No, sire. It is on silent. I did not hear anything."
"Well you'd better get your ears checked if you're going to be a good body-guard," the blonde snapped before slouching back into the leather seat.
Merlin sighed. It was apparently going to be a long day.
Merlin discovered several things on his first day following Arthur at school. 1. Arthur had a lot of really attractive friends. 2. Arthur was England's golden boy outside of his father's presence and home. 3. Arthur actually did have a brain in his head. If Merlin were to judge by Arthur's answers on a pop quiz. 4. Merlin could have quite a bit of fun with the crown prince and his invisibility.
He watched the prince horse around with his circle of friends after classes, teasing a lower classman. Merlin made Arthur trip so the boy could get away.
"Good one, Arthur," a female voice called out.
"Morgana!" the prince drawled, managing to look condescending even as he lay on his stomach, head in his hand.
The boys all straightened, trying to look suave and attractive. Merlin snickered.
"Making more lives miserable?" she quipped with a toss of her gorgeous deep brown hair. It revealed an expanse of creamy faultless skin that disappeared into her unbuttoned collar. She was probably the most perfect woman Merlin had ever seen.
"Just yours," Arthur retorted, having gotten to his feet. "The masses have to entertain somehow..." His mates laughed. Lingering close to them, Merlin discovered that this was Arthur's half sister. Who, not so secretly, all of Arthur's friends wanted to snog but would never dare do anything about it.
Merlin jumped at Uther's voice in his ear. "Uther!"
"How was my son's day at school? How is he doing?"
"Um..." Everyone was parting ways and Arthur and Morgana began moving towards the car now. "He's doing fine, sire—"
"The truth," Uther ordered, sounding quite peeved.
"No, he is. He's smart. Teases underclassmen and flirts quite liberally," Merlin replied furtively, looking around to be sure no one could hear him.
"Well, yes. He's quite prattish sometimes," Merlin said and then wished he could take it back.
"My son is prattish."
"I didn't quite mean—"
"It's fine. What is your location."
"We're still at the university, sire. We're getting into the car, though, so I can't talk again until we arrive back at the palace."
There was a grunt on the other end of the line. "Come find me when Arthur is back inside the palace.
"Yes, sir!" Merlin replied cheerfully, enjoying Arthur's face pinch and look around. He slid into a seat, Perci giving him a look as they rode home.
"Merlin," Uther nodded by way of greeting.
"Good afternoon, your majesty." He gave an awkward bow, but Uther waved a hand, dispensing with the formality.
"You are here for protection. And while I know you've been trained in protocol and proper interactive responses, I would like to dispense with the need for that between us. This does not make you more than you are, understand, but it is is simply to speed things along. I do not want to have long meetings concerning my son, however, if there is something I wish to know, you will come and debrief me on it. Similarly, if there is something that you feel I should know about my son, you will either tell me over the headset, or you will tell me that you wish to speak to me in private about something concerning Arthur. Do you understand?"
"Isn't it a bit like spying?"
"Of course it is," Uther replied as if Merlin were mentally challenged.
"Oh." He shrugged, really wanting to get out of the practical trainers and suit jacket.
"Now. What did mean 'prattish'?"
Merlin flushed. "S-sorry... I just meant..."
"Speak up. Be clear."
"He's rather unkind to those around him that he doesn't see fit to be in his presence or worthy of his attention."
Uther blinked. "I beg your pardon."
Making a small noise in the back of his throat, Merlin leaned forward earnestly. "You asked for honesty!"
"I did," Uther mused, leaning back in his chair. "Very well."
Was that a dismissal? "Um..."
"Go on. Keep up your work."
"Oh. Yes. Sire." And left.
The rest of the week passed similarly, Merlin following Arthur around his classes, nudging him in the halls whenever he set his eyes on a younger classman. Teasing him as an invisible voice when no one else would hear. Pretty soon he'd look a little crazy. Merlin grinned to himself, leaning back in the desk chair in Arthur's economics class, feet up on the desk. He closed his eyes, nothing really going on. Arthur was doodling in his notebook. Bored. And the rest of the small lecture was obediently taking notes. He let out a sigh and immediately shrieked as the chair fell backwards sending him tumbling to the floor. As startled glances looked his way, he changed into a fly, lifting himself up towards the ceiling.
Arthur was on his feet.
"Falcon? Falcon, everything alright?"
"Just fine, sire," Merlin projected, the microphone probably still on him somewhere, despite his clothes down on the floor. He magicked them invisible. "Just fine. Just... fell."
He heard Uther's groan and then the line went dead.
"—just a chair. Relax everyone," the teacher was saying. "Sit back down please, Prince Arthur."
Arthur glared around before retaking his seat. "I thought I heard someone shriek also..." he muttered.
One of the other nearby students nodded, but Arthur already wasn't paying attention.
Merlin sighed at the near-miss and then settled on the top of the desk next to Arthur, wondering how on earth he was going to get dressed again. Invisibility didn't do anything to make him feel more comfortable about redressing in a room full of people.
In the end, he waited until the class was finished, everyone had left and then redressed as quickly as possible before running after the prince. Thank goodness it was Friday.
Saturday, Merlin was ordered to follow Arthur every waking moment. That meant it was just more convenient to sleep in his room. So the couch it was. As fate would have it, Arthur's couch was more comfortable than his own cot, so he slept soundly for the first night since he started his service and didn't dream.
However, when Arthur groaned and stumbled out of bed at 10:42, Merlin was up and following him. Until he came to the closed door of the loo. Then he shook his head, realised his surroundings, and went back to a chair.
Apparently, on the weekends, Arthur liked to play video games, procrastinate on his school work, and then hang out with his friends and the posse of girls that followed him in hopes of a royal engagement.
"These girls are idiots," Merlin muttered, sitting close to Arthur as they all piled into a limo on the way to a fancy restaurant for lunch.
"I know," Arthur muttered darkly before throwing a charming smile at one of the girls as he helped her in.
"Then why do you hang out with them?"
"Because it—" He frowned and looked up, around, cursed, then dragged a hand over his face. "Now I really am going mad..."
Merlin bit his lip to keep from laughing. Perhaps this job wouldn't be so dull after all.
It really wasn't dull when the prince passed tipsy and went on to pissed at the restaurant. The girls were all over him, and Merlin's eyes couldn't take it all in because he was supposed to be making sure that there were no snipers and no people of the magical persuasion to harm the prince. Who was doing a fairly good job of attempting to harm himself. Merlin swore and gave the prince a little push so he wouldn't fall over as he balanced drunkenly on the chair, holding a knife aloft like a sword.
"An' then! Then I stab the dragon in s'eye! 'E bellows'n swipes at me, but I leap!" And he lept off the chair, stumbling slightly. "But 'm too quick, you see..." He pulled what he must have thought was a cunning smile, but really just looked drugged, and then skulked behind one of the raptly-listening girls. "I dodged 'round him and got 'im in the underbelly. Blood flowed over me, hot 'n nasty."
The girls squealed and made disgusted faces, while Arthur caught Perci's eye and winked.
The imposing man merely gave him a tight smile. Merlin was extremely thankful for the isolated room the restaurant gave them.
"Shouldn't we...stop him?" Merlin asked, sidling up alongside the other body guard.
"How might you suggest that?" Percival asked dryly. "He's got a temper when he's angry."
"Really?" Merlin couldn't help himself as the grin spread widely. "That's even better..."
"Falcon, what are you—" He shook his head, and Merlin took it as a cue that it was entirely okay with him, seeing as he made no move to stop him.
Arthur was leaning against the table, trying to look suave as only a 19-year old drunk could. A quiet whisper and the table tipped slightly, one of the full glasses of beer conveniently flipping all over the front of his shirt and trousers.
"Shit!" Arthur brushed at the liquid, effectively making it worse. He grinned at the ladies and then shrugged. "Sorry. I'll have t'go 'n change."
They cooed and protested, frowning and making puppy-dog eyes that Arthur easily ignored. "Can' be wet rest of th'day. 'S uncomer—uncomtort...able. Uncomfortable!"
"You're completely pissed," Merlin said with no small amount of amusement.
"'S right I am!"
"Your highness," Perci moved in, took his elbow. "I think it might be time to go."
Arthur snorted, swaying. "Of course 's time to go. You an idiot? 'M all wet..."
Merlin laughed behind his hand at the despondent look the prince threw at his body guard.
"An' whoever thinks'funny, 's really not, mate. It smells."
Arthur was right about one thing. It definitely did smell. The girls were given cab fare, the restaurant paid for its trouble, and the prince piled into his limo. He reeked of beer. He hummed and jabbered all the way home, giving Merlin the impression that this was something he did. The jabbering. Not the drinking. That didn't seem too out of the ordinary.
When they got home, the prince bathed (under supervision in case he accidentally drowned himself) and was put down to bed to sleep off his drunkenness. Merlin sat back the entire time and grinned. It was Kay's turn to laugh, however, when Merlin was the one who had to stay with the prince "in case he needs something and decides to hurt himself in the process."
There were good things in store for England if this was the faith and trust they put in their prince.
But Arthur slept clear through to Sunday morning, snoring and tossing like a small child. He pleaded off church in favour of finishing some school work, which pleased Uther.
And to Merlin's surprise, he followed through. So while the rest of the royal ensemble was at church, Arthur worked and Merlin discovered the advantages of his position. Being invisible, he could move things around in Arthur's room that would annoy him later. He could also cover the prince in every protective and alert spell he could think of before jaunting off to the library. Borrowing a few books, he returned to find the prince's eyes more on a football game than his essay.
"You really should be working," he whispered, pleased when Arthur jerked and looked around suspiciously before returning to his work.
The other advantage was that, most days, he was too busy to even think about his former life and the consequences his family and friends were dealing with.
"Falcon." Uther's voice echoed in his ear, startling him like it always did. "I need you to report to me in forty-five minutes. Kay and Percival will take over surveillance."
Merlin nodded and then remembered Uther couldn't see him, so he muttered, "Yes, your majesty."
Arthur didn't bother to look up. "Hullo, Kay."
"How's your school work going?"
"Just fine. I'm working on my speech for public speaking."
Kay nodded and then gestured behind his back for Merlin to go.
Wandering a bit until he was needed by Uther, he glanced up at the portraits on the wall. One featured a smiling Uther with a beautiful woman, Merlin assumed to be his wife. An arm curled possessively around her waist, their hands linked in front of them. They were obviously in love. Merlin smiled, moving onto a baby Arthur, his eyes wide and watery like he'd just cried before the photo had been taken.
Eventually, Merlin made his way to Uther's office. He began opening the door before he knocked and then waited for Uther to call, "Come."
"Hullo. Your majesty."
Uther didn't look at him, scribbling something on the papers before him. "You were officially executed yesterday. Merlin Emrys is dead."
The ground dropped out from beneath him and Merlin flailed for the back of the chair in front of him to hold him up. "O-oh..."
"Sit if you must."
He fell heavily into the chair, hands shaking as he clasped them tightly. "I...didn't... I didn't know..." he whispered.
"Thus I felt it necessary to inform you."
Some part of him felt gone. Now he was really no one. He didn't exist. Forever the invisible man. "Um... My letters. God, did you send my letters?"
"Your mother and friends will receive them," Uther confirmed.
Merlin stood. "Um. D'you mind if I...?" He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, trying to play it off casual. "Just take some...time."
"Kay and Percival are looking over Arthur."
"Right. Um. I'm going to go," he half-croaked.
"Be sure you are ready to report Monday morning," Uther said firmly.
Taking the unspoken directive that he had the rest of the day off, Merlin bolted. Already invisible, it wasn't hard for him to find an empty room. It was only after he locked the door and made it such that people would pass on by, not noticing it, that he allowed himself to collapse in the corner and cry. The deep sobs shook his shoulders and the hot tears streamed down his cheeks.