Title: Exaggerations and Overreactions
Rating: T for some language and incidents of BAMFery
Summary: Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table are led to believe that Arthur is dead. Merlin doesn't take it very well. BAMF!Merlin
Warnings: THROUGH SERIES 3
Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to Shine and BBC, not to me.
AN – This Author's note, much like the Olsen twins, comes in twos:
1.)Look! It isn't crackish!
2.) Finally – WHO'S EXCITED FOR DOCTOR WHO THIS WEEKEND? I'm so excited that I'm going to need a SWAT team ready to mobilize, street maps covering all of Florida, a pot of coffee, 12 jammy dodgers, and a fez.
ON WITH THE FIC!
"You're making me dizzy, Merlin," said Gwaine, "Stop walking around in circles before I tip over."
Merlin paused momentarily in his more than a little manic pacing the clearing, cracking his knuckles. Then, with a small, frustrated snort he began pacing again. "They should've been here by now," he said, "They're late. Something's gone wrong, hasn't it?"
"You're the magician," Gwaine retorted, "You tell me."
Merlin stopped pacing long enough to glare at Gwaine. "Warlock, actually," he said through gritted teeth, and started to make his rounds at the edges of the clearing once more. The knight began twiddling his thumbs, clearly deciding he was better of silent. Unfortunately for Gwaine, he was, you know, him, and silence had never been one of his strong points.
"It hasn't been that long," Gwaine said, "They're all fine, you'll see."
"Yeah," Merlin said, rolling his eyes, "Like I've never heard that one before. But seriously, you aren't worried at all?"
"I'm a knight of the realm, Merlin," Gwaine scoffed, "I don't worry, except about truly worrisome things that merit…worrying."
Merlin just stared at him.
Gwaine went back to prodding the fire with a stick. "Concerned is a better word, I think."
Arthur, Merlin, and the knights had ridden out to just over the border of Camelot into what used to be Cenred's kingdom. It had splintered into around ten different Lordships, all of whose leaders were vying for power. One Lord in particular – a man named Drake – seemed to be preparing to take that quest for power over into Camelot. Arthur, on order from his now mostly recovered father, was sent to discourage any such activities.
Merlin and Gwaine's portion of the mission had been to get Arthur, Percival, Leon, Elyan, and Lancelot into the Lord Drake's castle. Once they were in, Lancelot was to stand guard while Arthur and the others went and spied-on-read-as-sabotaged any warlike things that they could find, and, if plausible, take Drake into custody. Gwaine and Merlin were to go to the rendezvous point and set up camp, and wait for the arrival of the rest.
Neither had been overly pleased with their assignment, especially not Merlin. Gwaine had argued but dropped the matter quickly – it was only two weeks ago that the knight had taken an arrow to the leg, and the limb had developed a nasty habit of buckling out from beneath him at inopportune moments. Merlin, however…he knew that it was personal.
Two months ago to the day Arthur had discovered Merlin's magic, if 'discovered' was the right word. It was more along the lines of 'accidentally found out while Merlin was being an idiot and simultaneously scrubbing floors, cleaning armor, sleeping, and sharpening a sword'. Merlin had expected banishment, at best, but Arthur barely brought it up except to tell the other knights, and swear them to secrecy. But on hunting trips and castle raids, Merlin was given even more tedious jobs than usual. "Here, Merlin," Arthur would say with a smirk eerily similar to Morgana's, "This will show you not to lie to me."
Merlin was jolted from his reverie by the sounds of horse hooves pounding against the dirt floor of the forest. Gwaine stood, sword in hand. A moment later, and Leon trotted into the clearing, followed by Elyan, Percival, and Lancelot. They were all grim, all dirty with the grime of a battle. Gwaine visibly relaxed at the sight of them, but Merlin's heart pounded in his ears as he waited for Arthur to come riding in.
"Took you long enough," Gwaine said, "We've been –"
"Where's Arthur?" Merlin interrupted, eyes twitching from Leon to Elyan to Percival to Lancelot, searching out the prince. None of them answered. So, Merlin repeated himself, "Where is Arthur?"
Silence. Merlin's skin crawled. "He…He fell," Leon finally said, voice catching, "The prince is dead."
"Oh, hell," Gwaine said, kicking a tree and running a hand through his hair. "How?"
Leon launched into an explanation, but Merlin heard none of it. Words filtered through, like 'Drake' and 'tower' and 'sword fight' and 'fallen'. But everything within Merlin's world had stilled, slowing to a crawl. His vision danced with black speckled with gold and he blinked rapidly. Someone, somewhere, deep inside of him was screaming and sobbing in agony, but Merlin wasn't. Dead. The prince is dead. Arthur was dead, fallen, because Merlin hadn't been there to protect him. Your fault, your fault, this is entirely your fault, your failure. A hand landed on his arm, and he found himself staring at Gwaine. He realized that the knight had been talking to him for a while now.
"Merlin," Gwaine was saying, "Merlin, talk to me, mate."
"Who did it?" Merlin asked. The frigid coldness of his voice surprised him, distantly.
"Lord Drake," Leon said.
"Where is he?"
Leon looked taken aback, and didn't answer. Neither did any of the other men with him.
"I said," Merlin repeated, "Where is Lord Drake?"
"In the castle, I suppose," Leon answered, "But there's no way we can get to him. We tried."
Merlin nodded, turned on his heel, and strode away.
"Merlin!" Gwaine called, chasing after him. Merlin could hear someone – probably Lancelot – following behind. "Wait, stop. Stop!"
Merlin did stumble to a stop, standing in the clearing. He didn't turn to face Gwaine, just kept staring forwards. Deep within him, someone was still screaming, hysterical, flying to pieces. But he wasn't. It was like someone had lit a path with torchlight in front of him, winding away into the dark. He glanced up at the sky where storm clouds were massing. A distant crack of thunder echoed.
"I know that you're hurting," Gwaine said, "Just…please. Just come back with us."
"No," Merlin said, "No, I'm going."
"Going where?" Gwaine demanded. Lancelot had finally caught up with them.
Merlin glanced over his shoulder. Gwaine's hair was whipping around in the wind, and Lancelot had braced himself, squinting. "I'm sorry," Merlin said, and his voice sounded as distant as the screaming, "Tell them I've done my best."
"Merlin!" Lancelot shouted as Gwaine moved forward. The wind was howling loud enough that even the shout was lost in the storm.
A spear of lightening knifed down. Merlin closed his eyes, and when he opened him, it wasn't the trees of the forest near the rendezvous point that greeted him. It was the great, iron gate that barred the way into Drake's castle. In the sky above him, his storm was rolling and churning. Merlin raised a hand, and whispered the spell. The gate rose, and Merlin walked straight in through Drake's front door.
Guards rushed at him, but with a flash of gold Merlin sent them all flying into the walls and away. Merlin barely blinked, didn't even move an arm. He just pressed forward, and anything that was in his way was blown from his path. His clouds, wind, and lightening boiled in the sky above.
But after about two minutes of storming through the castle and knocking in doors and over walls, failing to find Drake, Merlin simply lashed out and grabbed a hold of the next man to go running past him. He slammed the man into the wall. "Lord Drake," Merlin growled, "Where?"
"Gr-great hall," the man said instantly, pointing down the corridor.
Merlin threw him to the side and continued onward. All of Drake's men were running, fleeing from the force that had sent the foundation of the fortress trembling. Merlin let them go – he had no issue with them. It was the lord of this castle he wished to have a conference with. And indeed, he found the Lord Drake in the great hall, just as that man had said he would.
Merlin blasted open the doors, and Drake – alone in the hall – flinched and cowered behind a chair. Merlin growled, wordlessly, and the chair flew to shatter against the wall, followed by its fellows and the table. He stalked forward, that distant screaming still loud in his mind. Drake, crawling backwards on the floor, was visibly shaking with terror. He only stopped crawling when his back hit a wall. "Oh, God," he was moaning, pressed against the shaking stones , "Oh, God, don't kill me, please don't kill me…"
Merlin almost laughed with the glee that filled him at the man's pleadings. Instead, he said, emotionless and monotonous, "You killed Prince Arthur Pendragon, heir to the throne of Camelot. You killed my friend. I will see justice done."
"Please, please," Drake pleaded, "Have mercy, I –"
"Mercy," Merlin said, and the last window that remained intact shattered, the pieces raining down on Drake. "You dare to ask for mercy?"
"Don't kill me," Drake said, immediately, "Please, don't kill me! Mercy. Mercy!"
Merlin stared down at the quivering mass on the ground in front of him. He imagined Arthur being struck down, the life fleeing from his eyes. He thought of how easy it would be to kill Drake, right now. The stones cracked around them, ceiling flying away into the whirlwind and the walls tumbling down.
"I'm not going to kill you, Drake," Merlin said, "I'm going to take you back with me. I'm going to hand you over to Uther. You will feel the full fury of Camelot. You will beg for death by the end of it, but your wish will not be granted. Death's too good for you."
The sky emptied to a clear blue. The only sound was what little of Drake's castle remained slowing tipping and crumbling. Merlin's legs quivered and threatened to give out, and his head felt light enough to just drift away from the rest of him. Black spots danced in front of his vision as he swayed forward. Every bit of energy left in him was simply bent towards one, single thought – don't pass out. Do not pass out, Merlin, because then Drake could get away.
Out of nowhere, a voice barked, "Merlin!"
Merlin blinked up, trying to peer through his blotchy vision. He could make out Gwaine, and Lancelot, but the other knights were blurred, their faces not quite in focus. None of them moved. "Merlin, mate," Gwaine said, after a moment, "What did you do?"
"I have Drake," Merlin announced to the assembled knights. His head pounded and his stomach rolled. His knees shook and his legs buckled from beneath him and he fell to the ground. Someone grabbed a hold of him before he hit the shattered stones of the floor, though.
"Merlin," whoever had caught him was saying, "Merlin, what happened? What did you do? Merlin?"
Merlin kept his eyes shut, trying to force his breathing back into a less erratic way. It wasn't working all that well. Distantly, he could hear Drake pleading, "Please, oh, God, just take me away from him, I won't fight, I swear I won't fight, just don't leave me with him!"
"Merlin, open your eyes, you idiot!" the same someone said. Merlin frowned. That sounded like…but that was impossible. Yet when Merlin did open his eyes, it was to find Arthur's face, lined with worry and streaked with mud, filling up most of his vision. "Merlin?" Arthur said.
"Oh," Merlin said, letting his eyes drift shut again, consciousness flying away, "I've died. That's inconvenient."
It will come as little surprise to learn the following fact: Arthur Pendragon was alive. That is to say, he was not dead.
He hadn't even really come all that close to dying. He'd just been stunned by that blow to the head that Drake landed while he was distracted, which caused him to stumble, which in turn caused him to topple over and off of the wall. However, he'd gathered his wits enough to manage to grab a hold of the stones sticking from the wall. It had shredded his hands and slowed his fall enough so when he hit the river that ran next to the castle, he didn't die. The river had swept him away, and by the time Arthur had managed to paddle to shore he'd been washed quite a long way downstream. Actually, he could barely even see Drake's castle.
So, shaking the water from his hair and blinking, Arthur set out through the woods, determined to find where his men had gotten off to. It was cold, and there was the smell of a storm swirling in the air, and he tripped and almost hit the ground at least seven times.
Arthur Pendragon was not having a particularly good day.
Arthur continued to walk through the woods, dripping water in every direction and cussing and swearing. Every now and again he'd pause and listen to make sure that he wasn't being followed. Then, cussing and dripping and swearing some more, he pressed onwards towards where the rendezvous point was.
It will come as something of a surprise to learn the following fact: It had yet to occur to Arthur Pendragon that his men were currently under the impression that he had died a horrid and terrible death.
It was because of that fact that he stormed brazenly into the clearing, and, at the top of his lungs, began hollering, "Well, thanks for coming and looking for me! Some knights you all are. I ought to have you hanged, the lot of you!"
(Later, once he wasn't completed baffled, he would look back on the incident as completely hilarious. However, for the moment Arthur found that the only thought in his mind was that all of his knights had gone completely and utterly mad.)
The knights were scattered throughout the clearing. Leon and Elyan were seated by the fire, staring emotionlessly at it. Gwaine and Lancelot were both mounted on their horses, and Percival was in the process of tightening the girth on his saddle. At Arthur's words, Leon jumped to his feet and drew his sword, Elyan moving like a shadow. Percival barely even flinched, and only turned to look at Arthur with a slightly open mouth. Lancelot, surprised into silence, jerked and almost fell off of his horse. Gwaine did, and squinting slightly from the ground, said, "Oh, hell."
Arthur just stared, eyebrows raised, face a frozen snarl of bafflement. There were a million different questions he could've led with, as he and the knights had their little stare down. But as Arthur looked at them, there really was only one that he could lead with.
"What," he said, "The hell was that?"
What followed was a hasty round of explanations. Leon, Elyan, and Percival had all seen him get whacked with the sword and topple over the wall – there had been blood on the stones when they got up there. Arthur – who had gotten washed down river – explained that it hadn't been his blood, but rather the blood of one of Drake's guards. There had been no sign of him, no time to go and find him. Exhausted, they had mistaken him for dead.
"Well, as you can see, I'm not dead," Arthur said, once they'd finished, then, "So, Gwaine, Lancelot, Percival – off your horses. No need to go and reclaim my body. We'll make camp here and head back in the morning. Where's Merlin gotten off to?"
"No offense, Sire, but we weren't going out to look for you," Lancelot said. Arthur frowned and looked from Lancelot to Gwaine.
Gwaine shrugged, "You were dead. Didn't exactly warrant finding in the immediate future. I mean, yeah, we'd go for your body eventually, but – I'm sure you understand."
"Then what are you doing?"
"It's Merlin," Lancelot said, "We think he's gone and done something drastic."
"How do you mean?" Arthur asked, his heart picking up speed.
"Well, we were off to rescue you when Leon and the others rode up and said that you'd been offed," Gwaine said, mounting up onto his horse, "I didn't believe it for a second, of course, being me. But Merlin –"
Arthur set his mouth in a hard line, "He's gone after Drake."
"We think so, yes," Lancelot answered.
"Right, then, Leon, I'm going to need your sword. Mine got lost in the river," Arthur said. The knight, after hesitating for only a moment, handed over the weapon. Arthur swung up onto one of the horses, and nodded at them all. "Let's go find him."
But when they rode over the hillside, there was no castle. Only a slightly smoking pile of ruins.
"Good God," Leon whispered, "It's gone. What happened?"
"I think Merlin happened," Gwaine said.
Elyan scoffed. "I know he has magic, but there's no way that Merlin did that," he said, but then hesitated for a moment, and looked at Lancelot and said, "Is there?"
Lancelot just stared back at him, and said nothing. Arthur dismounted, and began down the hill, the knights doing the same and following him to the ruins. They crept over piles of shattered rock and wreckage, none of them talking. Arthur clambered over a particularly large pile, and was greeted with the sight of Drake, groveling on the ground, and Merlin swaying on his feet. "Merlin!" Arthur barked.
Merlin glanced over and blinked at the gathered knights, and Arthur was positive that the warlock wasn't really actually seeing them. Gwaine spoke first. "Merlin, mate," he said, "What did you do?"
Merlin swayed some more, face gone gray. "I have Drake," he announced, and promptly pitched face first towards what was left of the floor. Arthur dove forward and caught him just before he hit the ground.
"Merlin, Merlin, what happened? What did you do?" Arthur said, more to himself than to his friend. Merlin was shaking, muscles twitching beneath his skin. He was gasping, like every breath was a struggle. Arthur shook him slightly, and said, "Merlin?"
Drake, meanwhile, threw himself at Percival, falling at the ground and grabbing the tall knight's shin, pleading, "Please, oh, God, just take me away from him, I won't fight, I swear I won't fight, just don't leave me with him!"
Percival looked rather disgusted, and kicked the groveling lord off. Leon walked over and tied Drake's hands.
Arthur just focused on Merlin, who hadn't opened his eyes since his collapse. "Merlin, open your eyes, you idiot!" he snapped. And Merlin did just that, somehow – even though the warlock looked to be at death's door – mustering the strength to eye Arthur with shock and surprise. "Merlin?" Arthur said.
"Oh," Merlin murmured, "I've died. That's inconvenient," before going limp, head flopping backwards.
And no matter how much Arthur shook him or how many times Arthur called his name, Merlin didn't stir.
Merlin woke with a pounding head, and every inch of his skin crawling and itching. Somewhere between passing out and now, he'd been brought back to Gaius's chambers in Camelot. He sat up, and scratched at his chest. It did nothing to help. Then, of course, he remembered why he was currently bedridden. He wanted to just close his eyes and crawl back into unconsciousness. However, he itched too much. So he pushed himself up, and on surprisingly shaky legs, teetered out of his room and down the stairs. Gaius was grinding up some leaves in a bowl.
"Merlin," Gaius said, "Sit down before you fall down."
"I itch," Merlin said, scratching at his arm.
Gaius swatted his hand away. "It's actually quite common when people use too much magic at once," Gaius said, "You're lucky you didn't die. You should be dead right now, you know that, don't you? Anyone else who tried to do what you did would be dead."
"I didn't mean to," Merlin said sullenly, letting Gaius sit him down on a chair, "And besides, it isn't like I didn't have the magic."
"I have no doubt that you have the ability," Gaius said, "What you lack is the sanity. You must work up to these kinds of things, Merlin! Letting out that much magic at once – you are tempting fate. You were unconscious for three days. Three! And if you had just waited another ten minutes before completely abusing your power, you would have known that Arthur isn't dead."
Merlin's ears roared slightly. "What?"
"Arthur isn't dead," Gaius repeated, and related Arthur's half of the story.
Merlin stared at his guardian with wide eyes throughout the whole thing. "I'm in trouble," Merlin finally said, "Aren't I?"
"Oh, yes," came Arthur's voice from behind him, "In fact, you are more in trouble than you ever have been before, you idiot."
Merlin flinched slightly. Gaius grinned – grinned! – and said, "I'll leave you both to it, then," stood, and left.
"Wait, no, Gaius!" Merlin said, but was too busy scratching to reach out and stop him. And then, it was just Arthur and Merlin alone.
"Merlin," Arthur said, "Explain to me how, in what world, what you did was a good thing."
"I guess it's possible that I kind-of-sort-of overreacted," Merlin conceded, "But –"
"Overreacted?" Arthur interrupted, "Overreacted? Merlin, overreacting is trying to jump off a tower. Overreacting is punching people when they try to help you. This isn't overreacting. This is…this is…I don't even know what this is. You destroyed the man's castle! Just – poof. Gone. Razed to the ground. What were you thinking?"
"He had killed you," Merlin said instantly, viciously, "What did you expect me to do? You were dead. Gone forever. All because I wasn't there to stop it. What was I supposed to do? Just stay still and do nothing while the man who murdered you walked free? My God, Arthur, what else could I have possibly done? What would you have done?"
And Arthur was catapulted into a world where the knights came riding into Camelot, a limp and dead Merlin packaged neatly on the back of a horse. Being told that, yes, they knew who was responsible, but, no, they hadn't caught him. That the murderer was still alive. He thought about having to get up the next day, to having to watch Gwen cry and have to deal with Gwaine drinking himself into a stupor. No more stupid jokes. No more goofy, lopsided smiles. No more abrupt changes from silly to wise. No more magic. No more Merlin, ever again. He thought about what exactly he would do in that situation.
Merlin's Question: What would you have done had our places been switched?
Arthur's Answer: Find the bastard. Make him watch as his people were conquered and his land was burned. Skin him alive. Light him on fire and run him to the sea and look on as he drowned. Find a sorcerer, get him to turn back time. Repeat until satisfaction is reached.
Arthur didn't tell Merlin any of that, though. Instead, he fixed Merlin with a stony glare and said, "All the same, if you ever feel the urge to pull a stunt like this again, don't. And since I know how well you listen, when you inevitably disobey that, at least take some backup with you, for God's sake."
"I'll keep that in mind for the next time you go and get yourself killed," Merlin muttered darkly, but for the first time since the conversation started Arthur thought he saw the smallest hint of a smile.
"Merlin," Arthur said.
"How about this," Merlin said, "You don't die, and I won't rip down castles. Deal?"
It was quiet again. Then, Merlin said, "Did I really tear down the whole thing?"
"Yes," Arthur answered, "You don't remember?"
Merlin shook his head, "I just wanted Drake," he said, "I, uh, I just wanted everything that was in my way out of it."
"Oh," Arthur said, and considered the repercussions of loyalty strong enough to literally shake a fortress to its knees. Finding no clear cut response, said, "Just…don't do anything like that again."
(They both knew that he was lying.)