Title: Curiosity Killed the Knight
Summary: Or, How to Drive Merlin Mad. Gwaine finds out about Merlin's magic and Merlin ponders the moral implications of turning friends into toads.
WARNINGS: SPOILERS THROUGH SEASON THREE
Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to Shine and BBC
AN – This is mostly dialogue that was written in about half of an hour. And…I apologize in advance. I was watching the movie Hot Fuzz, and there's the segment where it's just Danny peppering Nicholas Angel with all of these ridiculous questions, and I blame this on that. Total crack.
When the bandit attacked, Merlin hadn't had any time to react. One minute he'd just been walking along through the woods, talking happily with Gwaine, and the next some maniac with a sword was running at him and howling about running him through. Before Gwaine could even draw his sword, Merlin had yelped, eyes flashing gold, sending the man flying back and into a tree. The man, apparently deciding they weren't worth it after all, sprinted away. Two other bandits who had been hiding in the bushes, as far as anyone can tell, agreed with their fellow for they too ran off into the trees.
That left Merlin and Gwaine alone in awkward silence.
"Merlin," Gwaine said slowly, "You just used magic."
"No, no, I didn't," Merlin squeaked. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his stomach rolled, "I didn't use magic. Magic's illegal."
"Yes, and you've just used it," Gwaine said, and a smile stretched across his face, "That was the greatest thing I've ever seen, Merlin. That was amazing!"
"It…it was?" Merlin said. It wasn't exactly the response he'd been expecting. He'd been ready for something more along the lines of Sorry, my friend, but I'm going to have to run you through now followed by a swift sword and painful end.
"It was bloody brilliant. Did you see the way that they ran?"Gwaine said, and laughed. Then he wiped his eye, and said, "I've a question or two, though. Would you mind answering?"
Oh, how he would come to regret his next words in the days to come. Really. Within the week, Merlin would be considering inventing a spell to go back in time and stop himself from answering that first question at any cost. But Merlin didn't know any of that at this juncture in time, and instead smiled nervously, stomach flittering with the anticipation and shyness of someone new to talk to his magic about, and said, "Sure. Whatever you want to know."
And so it began. It went on for days. And days. And days and days and days…
"Do you have a spellbook?"
"Can I see it?"
"Who else knows?"
"Um, Lancelot, Gaius, my mother…you. I think that's it. Well, everyone who matters."
"Have you made potions?"
"Can you move other things with your magic besides blood thirsty thieving bandits?"
"Can you make yourself disappear from one place a reappear in another?"
"In theory, I suppose."
And so it went, the entire walk back to Camelot.
"Have you ever made it rain?"
"What about snow?"
"Can you fly?"
"I've never really tried."
"Has someone ever fallen off of a cliff and then you turned them into a bird so they could fly and save themselves?"
"Have you ever fallen off of a cliff and then turned into a bird so you could fly and save yourself?"
"I just said I've never tried to fly –"
"Have you ever had a duel with another sorcerer?"
"A couple of them, actually."
"Did you win?"
Merlin slapped his forehead. It was the first time, but certainly not the last.
"Lancelot says that you have a sword that can kill dead things," Gwaine said, materializing next to Merlin, "And that it was made with dragon fire."
"Lancelot says lots of things," Merlin muttered.
"Well?" Gwaine pressed, "Do you?"
"Sort of," Merlin said, "It's complicated."
"Then uncomplicate it. I want to hold this sword."
"You can't," Merlin answered, "It's stuck in a stone. No one can hold it."
"No, it isn't. Lancelot saw you exploding undead soldier nasties with it. If I say please, then will you let me?"
"No," Merlin said, and he felt a headache building behind his eyes, "It wasn't always in the stone. I put it there afterwards."
"To keep it safe."
"Where was it before, then? Or did you make it to kill the immortal army?"
"It was in a lake."
"I put it there."
"Again, to keep it safe."
Gwaine snorted. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You just threw it in a lake to keep it safe, where anyone could wander by and see a sword lying in the water and take it? And wouldn't it rust?"
Merlin fidgeted slightly. "Don't say it like that," he said, "It made sense at the time."
"Right, whatever," Gwaine said, waving his hand slightly, and then, "So you could, technically, go and get it again and bring it here so that I could use it?"
"Because only Arthur can pull it out of the stone. And only Arthur can use it."
"He's the once and future king."
"What does that even mean?" Gwaine whined, and then said, "And why does Arthur get to have all the fun?"
"Because life sucks and then we die."
"But, Merlin, I want to explode an undead thing!"
"Great," Merlin said, hoisting up the basket of Arthur's laundry, "Then go find a sword, find a dragon, get it to breathe fire on the blade, and go crazy. Oh, and be careful not to get incinerated in the process. Best of luck."
Merlin slapped his forehead again and walked away. He wondered if he were to turn Gwaine into a toad – namely, a toad that didn't know any English – how long it would take anyone to notice the knight's absence. He wondered if it was worth it. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he started rehearsing how to make his eyes go wide, and blink innocently, and say, "Gwaine? No, I haven't seen him for days."
Gwaine sat down next to Merlin on the floor. "How many times was that almost you?" he asked after a moment.
"Okay, then," Gwaine said. There was another stretch of silence, and then the knight said, "Want to go down to the tavern and drink until we can't see straight and the sky falls down?"
Merlin shrugged, and let Gwaine tow him off to the lower town. He didn't drink, but Gwaine's determined antics managed to distract him enough that the smell of charred flesh disappeared from his nose and the screams died in his ears.
Merlin and Gwaine were in the stables, horses loitering about and softly whinnying. Merlin was scrubbing at Arthur's tack, and Gwaine was reclining back on a bit of wall, chewing on a piece of hay. It was blessedly silent – Merlin was starting to hope that Gwaine had finally, finally run out of questions. After days and days. Merlin had been closer than he'd ever been to turning someone into a toad. Of course, Gwaine never did abide long in quiet.
"I know you've saved Arthur's," Gwaine said, startling Merlin, "But have you ever saved my life?"
"Jarl's castle. The fire?"
"Oh," Gwaine said, "Oh, that makes so much more sense now. I always have wondered about that, you know. Any other times?"
"I don't know," Merlin said, "None that really come to mind. I'm sure I have though."
"Hm," Gwaine said thoughtfully, "Thank you, Merlin."
Merlin paused in his scrubbing, and glanced up. Gwaine was looking at him in earnest, that same 'you're the only friend I've got' look plastered across his face. "You're welcome," Merlin said. Gwaine nodded once.
They returned to silence.
"About that sword," Gwaine said, falling into step next to Merlin, "How –"
"I already told you, only Arthur can get it out," Merlin said through clenched teeth.
"No, that wasn't what I was going to ask," Gwaine said, looking honestly offended, "I just wanted to know where you got it from."
"Well," Merlin said, scratching an ear slightly, "I got the sword from Gwen's father, and then the fire from the dragon."
"How, exactly," Gwaine said, slowly, "Did you manage to get a dragon – or a dragon, really, there was only the one, right? – to make you a sword to kill the dead?"
"I, uh, I talked to it, and it offered."
"But I thought that only Dragonlords could talk to dragons."
"You're a Dragonlord?"
"That's the greatest thing I've ever heard!" Gwaine said, and then after a moment, "But wasn't that man Balinor the last Dragonlord?"
"Not exactly," Merlin said, "Dragonlord powers are passed from father to son. Through d-death."
"Oh," Gwaine said, and then clapped Merlin on the shoulder lightly, "I'm sorry, mate."
"Yeah," Merlin said, "Yeah, me too."
"Wait," Gwaine said, "Did her Majesty the princess actually kill the beast?"
"Merlin! You sly dog, you're the one who killed the dragon, aren't you?"
"You didn't kill it. Arthur didn't kill it. It isn't dead."
"Then where is it?"
"Oh, about three days flight from here," Merlin said, talking quickly, "But I made it promise not to ever attack again. Or I would kill it."
Gwaine stared at him. Merlin stared back. Then, Gwaine flipped his hair, and said, "I thought you said you'd never tried to fly. How would you know how far a flight it is if you've never flown?"
"I don't fly," Merlin said, "But I've ridden on the dragon. He flies."
"Merlin," Gwaine said, "When I grow up, I want to be you."
"What?" Merlin asked, not liking the way that Gwaine was staring at him.
"Have you ever used magic to –" Gwaine then proceeded to ask one of the dirtiest, most obscene questions that Merlin had ever heard. As soon as the words left the knight's mouth, Merlin's brain got busy repressing them. When Gwaine had finished, Merlin stood up, and walked away. Really, there was nothing left to say after that.
"Aren't you going to answer my question?" Gwaine called after him.
Merlin didn't answer. He was too busy repressing.
"Have you ever met someone with magic besides you who wasn't evil?"
"A bunch. I didn't keep count."
"Have you ever made anyone explode? Besides the dead army, of course."
"Her name was Nimueh."
"You mean the almighty and powerful sorceress Nimueh?"
"Why'd you explode her?"
"She tried to kill my mother. Then Gaius."
"Because I tried to trade my life for Arthur's and then it got complicated."
"Have you ever seen a unicorn?"
"Did you get to ride it like you got to ride the dragon?"
"Could you arrange it so that I could ride a unicorn?"
"Because, Gwaine, you have to be pure to ride a unicorn. And you are…well, you're you."
"Touché, my friend, touché."
"Merlin!" Gwaine called, "I have a quick question for you."
"No!" Merlin snapped, whirling around, "No, I've never used magic to get free ale. No, I've never cursed anyone so their hair falls out. Yes, I've used magic to change what I look like and no, it wasn't to get under a girl's skirts. Yes, yes, no, yes, just because, forty-two, green, old, new, sausage, no, no, yes! Does that answer your question? Does it?"
"Wow," Gwaine said, "You're a little on edge, aren't you? I was just wondering if you'd seen Percival anywhere. No need to get all angry with me."
Gwaine walked away.
Merlin slapped his forehead.