Once upon a time, there was a great kingdom. Full of rolling hills and magical forests, (but don't tell the king that) its crown jewel was the immense city of Camelot. And in the court of Camelot, of the entirety of the noblewoman revered for their grace and poise, none were as renowned as the de facto princess, the Lady Morgana.
Which is why anyone would be shocked to see her hurtling down the corridors in near hysterics wearing only her nightgown. She ran as if the devil himself was chasing her, away from her expensively decorated room were lay the shards of a vase shattered but never touched.
"Almost there," the Lady muttered to herself frantically as she approached a door, "Gaius will know how to fix this…"
But when she burst into the room, the physician in question was absent. Instead, a poorly dressed, poorly groomed boy was in attendance, snuffing out the candles for the night. In contrast to the Lady Morgana, this boy was almost non-existent in the hearts and minds of the people. He was a familiar face, a walking accessory for their beloved prince. None would suspect that they owed their very lives to him, each and every one, many times over.
Morgana was about to find out.
"Is Gaius here?" She walked briskly up to him, noticing with some dread his apprehension.
"Uh, no, he's not here at the moment; should be back soon though." The boy called Merlin replied; formal, as always.
"I need to speak to him, where is he?"
"He's gone to see the king." Merlin stopped short, and gave her a concerned look. "What's wrong?"
Somewhere in her fear addled brain, she noted how odd it was how little she knew him. He had arrived in their lives over a year ago, saving Arthur and Gwen and that little Druid boy she still dreamed about and even his mother and entire village. She had defied the mad king with him, gone to battle with him, but no matter how good she thought he was it wasn't enough to get her to tell him about this.
"You can trust me Morgana, you know you can."
And just like that, her current train of thought came to a halt. She knew she had to tell somebody, she was going to explode if she kept this locked up anymore. Swallowing, she steeled herself.
"I'm scared, Merlin. I don't understand anything anymore. I need to know what's happening. Please." It was a challenge, a plea. Just say what we're both thinking.
But Merlin seemed to deflate before her. "Gaius will be back soon, he'll be able to help you." He deflected, fidgeting slightly.
"He won't, I don't want any more remedies; they won't do any good!" It all came out in a tumble as Morgana moved closer, invading his personal space and stopping only when he pulled back. She swallowed again at his subtle reminder of their difference in station, and how strange she must look.
She could see him freeze up, he was afraid. "…What?"
"I'm your friend; you know I wouldn't make this up!" Please believe me, please listen.
"Then you believe me? You think its magic, too?"
There was a beat. He was still holding back from her, and she was terrified she had gone too far, incriminated herself and would end up on the chopping block.
"Please, Merlin, I just need to hear someone else say it so I don't have to keep feeling like I'm imagining it." Her final plea, the last ounce of bravery she could produce in her terror.
Merlin stared at her, wide eyed, and idly she felt something in the air shift. The stories go that this is the moment he rejects her, leaves her to spiral down while he swallows the guilt, the beginning of Camelot's end.
But as Morgana knows, Merlin has never been one to do what he's told.
And with a sigh, a weight came off his shoulders, and suddenly he's moving into her personal space. She stiffened at the motion, and again as his hands took her own; she's not used to contact from anyone but Gwen, but somehow this felt just as a soothing.
"…Merlin?" She almost whispers, now more confused than anything. He looked solemn suddenly, older and strangely regal, and she can't for the life of her figure out what he's about to say that could make him change like that. But he just gives one of his dumb smiles, sad and empathic, and says;
"Milady… I'm sorry, you're a sorceress."
Morgana feels herself go rigid, the events of the last few days crashing down on her. She thought it would help to hear it out loud, but it just made everything worse. Her distress must have shown (Of course it did, I can't control myself at all tonight) because he squeezed her hands briefly before letting her sit down, preparing a glass of water she knocked back like ale. When she was done, he retook her hands and knelt carefully before her.
"I-I know you're scared." She finally makes eye contact again at that, glaring for all she worth, and he has the grace to look chastised. "Well, I mean, of course you are. I remember- I remember what it was like for me."
"Wait, what?" Morgana inwardly winced at her wits leaving her; clearly one of her least impressive statements, but at least she had an excuse. "How could- what do you mean, Merlin?"
The boy- no, the man, how could she not have noticed how tired he looked- gave another sigh of resignation; and fear, as well. His eyes - blue like her best sapphires – pierced her; and it was that look. The one he had given her the last time they had discussed magic, the one that said "I know you, and I accept you."
But instead of talking, he simply pointed at the unlit candle next to her. She looked at it confusedly; what was he-?
Morgana gave an undignified yelp as both the candle and his beautiful eyes lit up, and she was too scared to run because he had her hands in his grip and oh my God, Merlin's a sorcerer.
"D-don't be afraid!" He said, and snuffed out said candle with a glance of his again burning eyes. Traitorous hands were now gripping her even tighter, and he gave a sad smile at her flinch. It was sad, but understanding. "I'm not here to hurt anybody, I swear. Hell, since I've got here all I've done is save people's lives."
"I-I-I-I- what," Her mind couldn't process it. Merlin, sweet bumbling Merlin, was magic? And magic, dark horrific magic, had saved lives? "…how?"
Merlin let out another breath at this, grateful she was listening, and his eyes were back to blue now, so why did she still find them so mesmerizing?
"Did you really think that chandelier just happened to fall on Mary Collins?" He said slyly, a bit of his strange humor bleeding through. She appreciated it, she had always appreciated it.
And suddenly over a year's worth of happenstance crystallized before her. Mary Colllins, Valiant's shield activating without his order, Gwen's father mysteriously cured, Merlin announcing himself sorcerer to Uther Pendragon's face, everything about Sophia and her father, fighting so hard to save that boy with her, ("What if magic's not something you choose?") the eleventh hour whirlwind in Ealdor, the mysterious deaths of the other two assassins she had sent after Uther-
"Y-you know about Tauren, don't you?" She whispered in horror, suddenly his magic- because that's what he was- the least of her worries. Merlin nodded gravely, tracing comforting circles on her hands with his thumbs.
"It's alright, Morgana. I, um…" He trailed off momentarily. "I understand the impulse. That said I'm glad you didn't go through with it."
"Maybe I should have."
"You don't mean that."
Morgana looked down at him again, and realized he believed that fully. He believed she wasn't a killer, or a monster, or anything of the kind. He was just like her, and he had been using magic to protect them all since the moment he got here. Weight lifted off her shoulders, and she saw rather than felt Merlin feel the same.
"All my life, I've been told magic is evil." She said at last, her defenses crumbling before him. "That it corrupts your soul."
"Er…" Merlin tilted his head and gave her another of his smiles, because he seemed to have a million, this one conveying the gentle correction he was about to give. "Uther isn't exactly an unbiased source, milady."
"Ha!" Morgana found herself laughing, almost hysterically. "No, no he most certainly isn't,"
She looked down at him seriously, trying to make him understand. "But I- I've only ever known magic to hurt people. And I think; I think it shouldn't be this way, there has to be more, there has to be a good a-and kind use for it. But-!"
"Morgana." He coaxed softly when she abruptly stopped herself, and oh, why not, he knows everything already.
"But I'm terrified. M-my magic, its only ever hurt me, and now it can hurt others. What if Gwen had been near that window when I blew it out?" She couldn't stand the thought of her best friend hurt because of her, and she's about to break down again when Merlin reached up to cup face, steadying her.
"Morgana, listen to me carefully." Merlin commanded, and since when has he ever commanded, but she obeys anyway. (And since when has she ever obeyed?) He looks so different, and she can see the flecks of gold in his irises; subtle remnants of the power running through him.
"Since I've come to Camelot, I've seem magic do terrible things. Afancs, wraiths…" He trails off with a faraway look in her eyes. "Lightning, that can snuff life out like that candle beside you."
She shudders, whether from fear or… something else, she can't say. But she stays silent, not wanting to interrupt.
"But I've also done wonderful things with it. I've saved lives; healed the sick, protected the people I love from forces they couldn't handle. And yes, sometimes… sometimes I've had to hurt others to save people, even- even kill them."
"I can't imagine you hurting anybody." She's smiling now, Morgana notices, and is proud to have drawn a smile from the suddenly melancholy Merlin as well.
"Still, I have." He continued. "My powers- our powers, can be used for good or evil, Morgana, but that doesn't make them good or evil. Even the most horrific spells in the world aren't evil, just… violent. And maybe it says something about the person who uses it, but the magic itself? It's like fire,"
He reaches for the candle next to her and lights it with that word again, and this time she is entranced rather than afraid.
"It can be used to burn you to death, or it can light the dark." Merlin flashed his sheepish smile. "Or, you know, it can be used for cheap tricks."
A complex string of words slip from his lips before he blows on the flame, and to her wonder a swarm of butterflies spring out of it. Fluttering from the wick and into the air, they light the entire room from all sides with their fiery bodies.
"Oh, Merlin…" Morgana whispers, catching his small smile from the corner of her eye. Foolishly, she reaches out to touch the closest creature as it moves lazily past her shoulder, and retracts her burnt finger with another yelp. Merlin laughed heartily at her embarrassment, and took her hands again in his own.
"It's still fire, silly!" He giggles like a twelve year old, and inspects her fingers while running his own over it. Another chant and those eyes, (Like the sunrise), and the pain vanished.
"I- how," Morgana stared dumbfounded at her perfectly healed fingertips. Merlin aims her way another smile, this time victorious.
"See? Magic heals, too. But that doesn't make it good magic-"
"Any more than hurtful magic is evil." She finishes for him, and he nods sagely.
"Now you're getting it." He continued, and his husky voice takes on an awed quality. "Magic- it isn't good or evil, Morgana. It just is. It's been here long before us, and it will be here long after us. It's immense, and beautiful, and terrifying; and most of all, Morgana, it's a gift. What you can do is a gift."
Distantly she felt tears making tracks down her face at the thought, the knowledge that she didn't have to break things, or burn them, that she could heal as well as harm. Merlin was crying with her now, and they were smiling at each other, something between them clicking into place like it belonged. Breaking that vase seemed like years ago.
And it was then, kneeling before her like a suitor with her hands in his, amidst the firelight of a dozen flapping butterflies, that Gaius walked in.
So Merlin exposes his secret to Uther's face to save Gwen after knowing her for like a month, and exposes himself to Freya, a perfect stranger, to save her. Throughout the entire show, Merlin's modus operandi is to take stupid risks with his life and his magic to help people, especially damsels in distress. Except in this one episode, where he suddenly puts himself above someone in desperate need of assistance. Yeah, no.
Umm, first fic. Suggestions, criticisms?