A/N: This was written for a prompt. And it turned into something rather huge... For me.

The prompt was Arthur/Merlin:

Merlin has been locked away in a tower since his birth because his kind wanted to keep his magic powers hidden from the world. In the tower Merlin slowly becomes very, very powerful, but he can't help to complain every time to his parents how he would love to see the world outside and live as a normal person. When on his 18th birthday Merlin asks again to leave the tower and he's denied, he decides to escape the very same night and finally live his own life.

He gets lost in the forest... and Arthur finds him.

The only thing Merlin is aware of is that he has to keep his powers hidden for his kind's sake.

Leaning on his elbows, Merlin twirled a finger in the air, directing the few odds and ends from his room through the air, competing with the ribbons of fire and water that danced as well. The objects arranged themselves into a castle—he'd heard snippets, treasured few words about Camelot. The great city with its white towers and daunting king. He'd convinced Freya to tell him about when she came to deliver food to him years back and then she was gone. He'd never heard from her again. She left, he was told. The fire and water arranged themselves, according to Merlin's direction, into a flowing river and brilliant sky behind the castle.

He sighed wistfully, vanishing everything with a bored wave of his hand as he heard the approach of footsteps on the stair. His mother this evening. Maybe tonight... Maybe she'd listen.

"Hello, darling boy," Hunith said, all warm smiles and softness. Except for her will. That was iron.


"How has your studying been getting on?"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "How am I ever going to put any of this into action if I cannot go and see first hand what these herbs and plants are? And animals, Mum. I've never seen any of these animals except for in the books. And those drawings are rubbish."

"Merlin," his mother chastised gently, setting down a tray and then easing herself onto a stool across the table from him. "We've talked about this..."

"Yes. I know."

"Don't take it too hard, Merlin."

But this time was the last. Enough was enough! "I've eighteen years tomorrow! Why can't I just..." he waved his arms for emphasis, "see things! I just want to step outside. A window, Mum. A hint of fresh air not brought up from the floor through the length of this entire tower. The sun. I want to see the sun! Or clouds! I don't care!" He was aware that his voice was turning pleading, and as his mother's face grew tight, he pleaded all the harder. "I just want to feel the sun on my face and...and hear birds, Mum! I think that I can hear them sometimes, but I'm not sure. The wind whistling through the trees. Leaves brushing together, turning colours. Mum! Like every other person in the world! I want to feel the earth beneath my feet—I can feel it you know! I feel it throb sometimes, and I want to touch it, to dig my hands into it, feel it's...earthiness. I could grow vegetables! Climb a tree, dip my feet into a river. I want to know it all!"

"Merlin! That's enough! You know that the druids need you here to keep you safe and hidden from the world."

"But why! I know, I know—I'm powerful, blah blah, magical Emrys, they all think I'm brilliant, but if I'm all that powerful, then I can protect myself!"

"Oh, darling boy, it's not just would-be attackers that we fear," Hunith said gently, leaning over to take one of her son's hands in hers. She gave him a patient and understanding smile that he hated because she didn't understand. She didn't understand at all. "It's the world, Merlin. There's a big world out there, and we don't want you getting hurt."

"Yes, please. Let's walk on egg-shells around me, because I'm so fragile," he retorted, yanking his hand back and stuffing it in his armpit. "I want to see it, Mum! Everything! I want to see everything!"

"Merlin, the world can be a cruel place. And especially to magic-users. King Uther of Camelot has hunted down every one that he can and he executes them! We just need to keep you safe. Surely you understand that, don't you?"

He knew he was sulking, but admitted finally, "Yes."

Hunith's smile was blinding. "There's my good boy."

"I'm no longer a boy, Mum."

"I know. Indulge your mum though, Merlin." She rose and skirted the table to kiss his forehead and then nose. "I love you, my darling boy. We'll celebrate your birthday tomorrow."

"Later, Mum. You know where to find me." He heard Hunith's chuckle as her footsteps faded. Dropping his gaze to his food, Merlin half-heartedly piled it into his mouth, moulding it into shapes with a flash of his golden eyes.

He was let out of his room for his birthday, and that was the only occasion for which he was released.

"Happy birthday, Merlin!" his parents and several druid friends chorused.

He gave them a smile that wasn't quite real, still upset about his mother's dismissing his wishes to at least see the out-of-doors. "Thank you."

Hunith set a cake in front of him. "Go ahead and cut it, Merlin. You're the birthday boy!"

"What do you want this year, Merlin?" Will teased, crowding his elbow as he attempted to slice the dessert.

"The same thing I want every year, Will," he replied mildly with a secret glance at his mother. "I want to go outside."

"I could bring you some dirt."

"It's not the same," Merlin replied, exasperated as he finally elbowed his friend out of the way and served the cake.

"Mm! This is delicious, Hunith!" Will exclaimed, stealing a bite from a dish.

"That one's yours now, Will."

"Well, then hurry up and stop taking so long!"

Merlin heaved a sigh and the cake was cut neatly and evenly with a flash of his eyes.

"Merlin!" Hunith reprimanded.

"What! What's the point of having it and not using it!"

"When did you learn that trick?" his father asked.

He glanced over at his father—always strong, usually silent—standing against the wall with a tankard in his hand. He shrugged. "I dunno."

His father shook his head and lifted his drink to his lips to hide the grin Merlin knew was there.

"That's a neat—if useless—trick, Merlin," Aelfyn, one of the druids, murmured, her cheeks flushing prettily.

Will elbowed him again. Then Hunith approached with a cloth covered object. "Here you are, my darling boy!"

"Mum! At least stop in public!" Will sniggered next to him so Merlin pushed him off the bench. Will just chuckled and righted himself.

Sighing, Merlin lifted the cloth off of whatever his gift was, forcing a bright grin at the new tunic that was folded neatly. Picking it up, an object tumbled out. A dragon. Wooden. He looked up at his dad, a real grin crossing his lips. "Thanks, Da." He rubbed the material of the tunic between his fingers, appreciating the soft blue of the fabric. "Thank you."

"Wait a minute!" Will said, digging an ill-wrapped object out of his boot.

He whistled his admiration for the small blade that was tucked into the cloth. "Will! I can't take this! You must have spent your life savings on this!"

"Bah. You have to take it, Merlin. Protect your honour."

"Protect my—" Merlin snorted. "Yes, it'll come in use against you."

Will laughed and clapped his back. "Happy birthday, mate."

"Lovely gift, Will," his mother said with a smile, though Merlin could tell from the tightness around her eyes that she didn't approve.

When Merlin finally trudged back up to his rooms with his new belongings, he felt the bitter stab of loneliness invade his heart again. His mum didn't like Will staying too long. He was a bad influence, he mocked in his head. And his druid friends couldn't help but be in awe of who he was—their fabled Emrys. They nearly wet themselves whenever Merlin did magic in their presence. And maybe he did a little bit extra just to show off.

He snorted and set the wooden animal on a shelf where it joined seventeen others. One for every birthday. The tunic he dropped on his bed, but the knife he cradled in his hands, examining it. He found out, the hard way, that the blade was sharp. Sucking on the cut, Merlin decided, the thing was deadly. He whispered a healing spell over his finger and then brandished the thing at an imaginary enemy. "Ha! You'll never catch me," he whispered, pretending he looked fierce. Glancing around the room, he beckoned at the broom, draping a shirt over it. He let it dance in front of him, broom side up as he imagined a face and arms. Enticing the thing into battle, Merlin jabbed in for the kill before dancing away only to engage again. This time, however, he tripped over a bucket and everything crashed to the ground. The knife clattered harmlessly to the floor next to his hip as he stared at the ceiling.

If only he could see the world for himself... He cursed and then sent the blade flying into the wood of the door, scowling fiercely. It wasn't fair. The druids all got to live in the world. His parents had lived in the world. Before the druids had convinced them to inhabit the tower with their infant son. The great Emrys. But still. His father made monthly trips into a nearby town, trading and bartering for things they needed, selling carven work. He often enlisted Merlin's help to make it smooth to the touch without using extra effort himself.

Pulling himself off the floor, Merlin trudged over to the door, grunting as he tried to pull the dagger out. Staggering backwards when he did, he tucked the thing back into its sheath and then into his belt.

The sweet biscuits from Fandale he set aside as well as the book from Aelfyn and Bailus. His face screwed up as his eyes started to burn. Punching the table didn't help and only made a bowl fall and shatter at his feet. He glared at it and it jumped up, whole, back onto the table. "Curse you!" He spun around suddenly, glaring at the entire room. "A bloody prison! That's what you are!" He shouted at the room. He let out a low stream of curses he, rightly, should not know, but Will had taught him. And his father liked to curse in his work room when he didn't think that Merlin could hear him through the floor.

Rushing to the door, he yanked on it, furious, but the combined magic of the druids made it so that it wouldn't open except by a hand on the other side. He hissed and prowled around his room. Escape. If only... This was no way to live! He was trapped and kept...like a pet or a fragile thing. Which he wasn't. Slumping against the stone wall, he dropped his head against it, hoping the coolness would sooth his temper.

The silence welled up in him to the point that he was forced to shout, screaming as he slammed his hands at the wall. "Get out of my sodding way, you bleeding stones!" He shrieked, jumping back immediately when the stones obediently fell away leaving two small holes in the wall.

He gasped a reverent breath and let his hands float over the open area. "Move," he whispered to the stones in between, floating the down to the ground so the thumps wouldn't bring attention. As soon as an area was cleared, he crawled forward looking up. And stared.

The stars.

There were stars.

They twinkled in the sky, bright and vast in the navy blackness that was the night time sky. Merlin's cheeks hurt from grinning. So this was what a taste of freedom felt like. Imagine...

Ooh, imagine the rest of the world.

Merlin sucked in a breath. He could. He could just leave. He could go and see the world. Prove to his parents and the sodding druids that he could take care of himself. He would show the world that Merlin is not afraid!

Rushing away from the edge, he grabbed a sack and magicked belongings into it—tunics, his spare breeches, the dragon his father had just carved for him, the spell books that he had acquired, food, a canteen, and other necessary items for travelling. Merlin frowned when it wouldn't all quite fit without busting the seams of the bag. Squinting, he eyed the items until they all just shrunk enough to fit properly. Then grinned at his success. He crawled back to the opening and stared down at the ground. It did seem rather far away. Quite far. Stomach-twisting far, in fact. He frowned. He had lowered the bricks down there, but he wasn't sure about himself.

Merlin dropped his bag over the edge, lowering the thing down steadily. Easy. He took in a deep breath and concentrated, lowering his body over the edge until he was hanging by his fingers and then slowly carried himself to the ground, not letting go of his air until his feet hit dirt and his knees fell into the dewy grass. Grass, it was grass! He combed his fingers through it, bending his face to rest on he damp carpet of the earth. He grinned.

He stood finally, looking up at the hole that he'd created in the tower. Frowning, he floated a scrap of parchment down and scribbled a quick note: I'm going to find my place in the world before sending it back up to rest on the table, and rebricking the wall.