Bring Him Home
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. Or Les Miserables (or the songs from it). I'm just a bored person who hears a song, thinks of a characters, and goes oooooh!
A/N: This is set after The Curse of Cornelius Sigan, but everything after that didn't happen.
Warnings: Depression, suggestions of what can only be described as an eating disorder.
The spell was cast before anybody had the chance to stop it, and the whole court – Uther, Morgana, the knights, the servants, the visiting dignitaries from Celidoine – froze as the red light hurtled through the air towards Arthur. The Prince himself stood, stunned, pinned to the spot as inevitable death flew at him. This was it, he thought, closing his eyes and waiting for the curse to hit it's mark. This was how he would die. Struck down because nobody imagined a member of the castle's serving staff would have a vendetta against the King.
Suddenly, though, the ear-splitting roar of flying magic was gone, and Arthur opened his eyes to see the sinister light, frozen in midair, halted in it's tracks by Merlin, Arthur's idiot manservant, standing in front of his Prince, his hand raised, fingers spread, the hot energy of magic crackling in the air around him. Arthur watched, horrified, as Merlin pushed his hand further forwards, and the magic turned on it's caster, drawing a chilling scream as his body was engulfed in flames.
The silence was deafening. Arthur could only stare, watching as Merlin turned to look at him with wide, fearful eyes. After a moment, though, Uther's voice broke the spell.
"Arthur!" He barked, glaring furiously at Merlin, his face white. "Arrest him!"
Arthur stood, staring at Merlin. He glanced around the hall, his eyes falling on Gaius, everything about him showing his agony as his whole world came crashing down around him; Gwen, her face ashen; Morgana, with tears already trickling down her cheeks; his knights, some watching the scene with sad, stricken faces, others looking away, unable to watch as a good man – a friend – was arrested and sent to the pyre.
Morgana stood, going to argue with Uther, but Arthur shook his head. There was no point protesting, no point fighting to save Merlin. Uther would not see reason.
Arthur stepped forward, stopping mere inches from Merlin. He sighed deeply, resting his forehead sadly against Merlin's. Tears were burning behind his eyes, and he had to blink furiously, feeling one tear escape, in order to look into Merlin's own tearful eyes.
"Merlin." He whispered, reaching forward to take his manservant's hand. "Tell me, quick. Can you get yourself away from here?"
He waited, ignoring the King's impatient call of "Arthur! Now!", and found himself swallowing around a suffocating lump in his throat as Merlin nodded silently.
Arthur nodded, placed a gentle, chaste kiss on Merlin's lips before stepping back. He felt more hot tears spill as he reluctantly allowed Merlin's fingers to slip from his own, but he raised his head defiantly to look deeply, longingly into his friend's eyes.
"Do it." He said strongly, not taking his eyes off Merlin. "Magic yourself out of here. Go away; get far, far away from Camelot, and don't ever look back." He trembled violently as he watched Merlin cry, his heart breaking. Uther was shouting furiously, rising to his feet and drawing his sword.
"Now, Merlin!" Arthur shouted, stepping further away. "Go!"
The world seemed to freeze for a brief second as Arthur blinked, and when he opened his eyes, Merlin was gone. His heart ached with the loss, and, breaking the silence of his tears, a single desperate sob escaped from his chest as he whispered sadly to the empty space where Merlin had stood: "I love you."
Six Months Later
God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there
Uther stared down at his son's sleeping face, taking in his thin, almost emaciated form, his pale, grey skin, the smudges of shadows under his eyes. His eyes fell on yet another discarded plate on the table next to the bed and he sighed sadly.
"What will happen to him?" He asked, looking up at Gaius.
The physician had also deteriorated in recent months. The whole castle seemed to have fallen into an overwhelming gloom. Morgana refused to grace the King with her presence, while the knights and servants went about their duties in a sort of monotonous haze, no longer showing and enthusiasm for or pleasure in their work, unable, or unwilling, to even look at the King.
"If we cannot convince him to help himself, I'm afraid he won't survive very long, Sire." Gaius explained sombrely. "He has barely eaten in months. He hasn't even been outside of his rooms since..." Gaius hesitated, before raising his chin and staring at the King. "Since Merlin had to leave, I'm afraid Arthur has given up."
He is young
Let him rest
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
"What do you mean, 'given up'?" Uther demanded, his eyes narrowed furiously at Gaius. "Are you saying he's under an enchantment? A curse?"
Gaius laughed humourlessly. "No, Sire." He said. "He simply no longer wishes to live."
"But why?" Uther asked. "Why would he suddenly decide he doesn't want to be alive anymore? He is Crown Prince! He has everything he could possibly want."
"Yes, he has everything he could want." Gaius said. "But you took away the one thing he truly wanted with all his heart."
"What are you talking about?" Uther scoffed irritably. "I have taken nothing."
"Merlin." Gaius said simply. "He loved him so much. Because of you, he lost Merlin, and now it's killing him."
He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.
"How dare you!" Uther shouted, turning furiously on Gaius. "How dare you mention that name!"
"I dare because, like Arthur, I have nothing left to lose!" Gaius shouted, spreading his arms desperately. "Merlin was like a son to me, and, because of you, he is gone. I stay for Arthur, to care for him until he is finally free from the pain you have brought down on him! When that happens, when Arthur finally finds the release of death, I have every intention of following. Maybe then you will understand what you have done to me and so many others in this kingdom. It is just a shame that it will cost Arthur his life to open your eyes and make you see what you have done."
Uther watched as Gaius ran a hand over his face, his eyes focused sadly on Arthur.
"What is it about Merlin?" Uther asked his voice barely more than a whisper. "Why does he inspire such devotion? Such love?"
"Because he is a good man." Gaius told him, peering cautiously at the King. "Merlin is a good man with a good, pure soul. He loves Arthur, from the bottom of his heart. After the Questing Beast, he offered his life to save Arthur's. He is the most selfless person I know. He risked his life over and over again to protect Arthur, and Camelot and it's people. He loves Arthur so much, he gladly exposed his secret to protect him, even though he knew it could cost him his life, because he would rather die than see Arthur suffer."
"What has he done?" Uther asked, sitting down weakly on the edge of Arthur's bed. "For Camelot. For Arthur?"
The King listened silently as Gaius explained all that Merlin had done. Fighting Edwin to save Uther himself, killing the Sidhes and rescuing Arthur from the lake, creating Excalibur, killing Nimueh, taking in and destroying the spirit of Cornelius Sigan. All because of his love for Arthur, and his belief in the great King he will one day be.
"What do I do?" Uther asked, running his hand gently through his son's hair. "How do I fix this?"
"If you want to save Arthur and undo the damage you have done, there's only one thing you can do." Gaius said. "Find Merlin. Find him and bring him home."
Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy
Uther secured the packs on the back of his saddle, opening a bag one last time to double check that the all important document was there. Satisfied, he mounted his horse, took one last look at the courtyard around him, before digging heels sharply into the horses sides, and racing out of Camelot.
Uther rode for several days, all luxuries left behind, his name and title waiting for him back in Camelot. He rode under the name of Leon, borrowed from the most loyal of Arthur's knights, following whispers and rumours of the lonely, wandering sorcerer.
On and on he rode, following the whispers hundreds of miles north, into the Kingdom of Cambernic. Finally, after four weeks travelling, one morning he found himself accepting the hospitality of a young family near to the Northern borders of the Kingdom.
They were a young couple, Thomas and Amelia, with two small children – a three year old son and a two year old daughter.
"There is a boy." Amelia, told Uther when he asked about the rumours. "They say he lives by the big lake in the forest."
"Have you met him?" Uther asked, nodding gratefully as he took the offered bread from her.
"Once." Amelia replied. "About a week ago. He appeared out of nowhere and helped when Arthur fell and broke his leg. He healed it with magic."
"Arthur?" Uther repeated, his eyes falling on the small boy playing on the floor with his sister. "Your son is called Arthur?"
"Yes." Amelia told him. "Arthur and Mary."
"What did he look like?" The Uther asked after a moment. "The sorcerer."
"He was young." Amelia said. "Can't have been much more than twenty. Tall, pale, and very thin. He had dark hair, but such pale blue eyes, he was like something from another world. And yet, he was so sad."
"Sad?" Uther prompted, watching her intently. "Why?"
"I don't know." Amelia told him. "When Arthur told him his name, he just sat and cried. And his eyes... it was like something was missing. Like he had lost whatever it was that made him complete."
"Thank you." Uther said sincerely, standing up. "I must go now, but thank you, very much."
Uther rode into the forest immediately, driving his horse forward harder and harder as he searched for the lake. He rode for hours, travelling deeper into the heart of the forest, until, with just one or two hours left until sunset, he heard splashing through the trees.
He carefully dismounted his horse and tied the reins to a branch before taking the scroll of parchment from the bags. He drew his sword and crept forward towards the water, emerging from the trees to see a vast lake, completely isolated, except for one thin, pale, dark-haired young man, washing some clothes in the icy water.
"Merlin?" He called gently, stepping slowly forward into the clearing.
Merlin jumped and spun around, holding the soaking wet tunic in front of him like a shield as his eyes darted from the King to the clearing around him, searching for an escape.
"Don't run." Uther said, stepping slowly nearer. "Look." He slowly placed his sword on the ground between them and raised his arms, showing his empty hands.
"Where are the knights?" Merlin asked, anxiously peering into the trees around him.
"It's just me." Uther told him, inching closer. "I haven't come to hurt you."
"Why are you here, then?" Merlin asked, eyeing the King suspiciously. "Why have you come?"
"Take it." Uther said, holding the scroll out for Merlin.
Merlin jumped forward to snatch the scroll from Uther's hand before darting back until he was a safe distance away. He opened it, and his brow furrowed in confusion as he read the words on the parchment.
"I don't understand." He said, looking back up at Uther.
"I pardon you." Uther told him. "This is an official pardon. You will not be harmed for your use of magic, past or future, unless it is used to harm Camelot or it's people. I've come to bring you home."
Merlin stared, his eyes wide, shock written all over his face. "But why?" He asked.
Uther hesitated, looking at the warlock in front of him. "Arthur is dying."
Merlin dropped down onto the ground, sitting in the dirt and looking up at the King.
"Since you left, he has been slowly fading away." Uther explained, crouching down in front of Merlin. "He won't eat, he barely sleeps. He hasn't even left his rooms since the day you left. Arthur needs you, Merlin. Camelot needs you."
Merlin stood, looking down at the King. "How long does he have?"
Uther sighed. "I don't know." He said. "I left four weeks ago. For all I know, I could already be too late. I had to find you, because I knew you were his only chance."
Merlin nodded, looked down at the clothes in his hand, and, with a gold flash of his eyes, the fabric was instantly dry.
"Let me ride with you." He said, pulling the tunic over his head. "I can get us there faster."
Uther nodded, watching as Merlin climbed awkwardly up onto his horse, before mounting the horse himself, sitting tall behind Merlin.
You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.
Merlin and Uther rode for two days, the horse carrying them with impossible speed. Neither stopped for rest, simply squinting to shield their eyes from the wind whipping their faces. Uther knew it was magic hastening their journey. The horse never tired, and the scenery seemed to shift to allow them swift passages. Uther could only watch as streams, trees, buildings, and even mountains parted to let them past, until, late in the second afternoon of their journey, the great outline of Camelot appeared before them.
The sun was shining brightly as Uther and Merlin arrived in Camelot. People stared, stunned, as the King and the sorcerer rode in together on a galloping steed. They came to a halt in front of the well, and Uther immediately jumped down, before reaching up to help Merlin dismount.
Still people stared, waiting for the moment when Uther would call for Merlin's arrest. Instead, Merlin simply turned to the King, and nodded in thanks before glancing around the courtyard.
"I think we're in time." Merlin said simply, turning back to Uther. "There's no..."
"Grief." Uther completed for him, sighing in relief. "He should be in his chambers."
Merlin turned and ran up the stairs into the castle, closely followed by the King. Together, they sprinted through the castle, knocking servants out of their way as they ran. At one point, they ran past Gwen, but Merlin ignored her as she dropped her basket in shock and shouted after him.
Merlin burst through the doors of Arthur's chambers, briefly surveying the scene before stepping into the room.
"Merlin!" Gaius gasped, staring at the sorcerer before his eyes fell on the King. "Good lord." He whispered under his breath. "He did it. He actually did it."
Merlin sat gently on Arthur's bed, looking down at the Prince's sleeping face.
"Arthur?" He said quietly, laying a hand on the Prince's head. "Arthur, wake up."
Slowly, Arthur's eyes began to open, and he turned his face to look blearily up at his manservant.
"Merlin?" He whispered, his voice hoarse from lack of use.
"Hi." Merlin said with a bright smile.
Arthur slowly raised himself up to look at Merlin.
"Merlin, you shouldn't be here!" He said fearfully. "My father – "
"Arthur, your father was the one who brought me back." Merlin explained, smiling at the look of confusion on the Crown Prince's face. "I've been given a full pardon."
Arthur gaped, his eyes darting from Merlin to his father in the doorway and back again.
"Why?" Arthur asked, still confused.
"Apparently," Merlin began. "You need me, you daft prat."
Arthur laughed, and, after a moment, Merlin joined in. They laughed together for several minutes, until, gradually, tears started to fall down Arthur's hollow cheeks, and he started to cry.
"I was so scared, Merlin." He said between sobs. "I thought, without you calling me a prat, I'd go back to the way I was before. I don't want to be him again. I was never a good man until you came along."
"You were a good man, Arthur." Merlin whispered, pressing a soft kiss to the top of Arthur's head. "You were just a good man with an attitude problem."
Arthur snorted with laughter, laying his head tiredly against Merlin's chest.
"Everything hurts, Merlin." He said sadly, his words slurring in his exhaustion. "I feel like I'm being crushed. I'm so cold, but the blankets are so heavy."
"Can you try eating some broth?" Merlin asked quietly, watching as Gwen stepped into the room with a tray . "Once you start putting weight back on it will stop hurting."
Arthur nodded, lifting his head to smile gratefully as Gwen set the tray down on the table next to the bed.
It was a slow process, feeding Arthur. He only managed to eat a third of the bowl of broth and two bites of bread before he complained of stomach pains. Merlin nodded, handing the tray back to Gwen and taking a goblet from Gaius.
"Try sipping some of this when you can, Sire." Gaius said. "It's sugar in water. It will give you a little more energy."
Arthur nodded, taking a sip when Merlin held the goblet to his lips.
"Your recovery will be slow." Gaius said, watching as Arthur leaned back against Merlin again. "It will take months for you to reach a healthy weight again, but, with a lot of hard work, I think you're going to be fine."
Arthur nodded, closing his eyes and sighing, clearly struggling not to fall asleep.
"Maybe we should just let him sleep for now." Merlin said as Arthur started to snore lightly. "I'll get him some more broth when he wakes up."
Gaius nodded and stepped out of the room quietly.
Uther went to follow, before hesitating at the door. "There will be a servant outside the door at all times if you need anything." He said. He hesitated for a moment, before looking intently at Merlin. "Thank you, Merlin. For everything.
The next few months were indeed hard. It was another two weeks before Gaius deemed Arthur well enough to leave his room.
That morning, the inhabitants of Camelot were shocked when, after many months of not being seen, their Prince was seen, weak, skeletal, and barely recognisable, being helped around the courtyard by his manservant. It rapidly became a common occurrence, though, for Arthur to be seen, supported by Merlin, making his way slowly through a lap of the courtyard, and the people of Camelot found themselves proudly watching as their Prince slowly built up his strength again.
The biggest shock, though, came three week's after Arthur's first exercises.
The Prince came out that morning accompanied, not only by Merlin, but also by Uther. He stopped in front of the steps into the castle, leaning on Uther while Merlin walked ten paces and stopped, turning to face them.
Slowly and carefully, Arthur left his father's arms, taking shaky steps towards Merlin. He had only managed six steps, though, when he stumbled. The people watched, as though everything was occurring in slow motion, as the Prince started to fall.
However, almost immediately, Merlin raised his hand, and Arthur froze in midair. Uther ran forward and grabbed his son under the arms, supporting his weight, and Merlin lowered his hand.
Silence fell on the courtyard as everybody watched the King, waiting for the outburst. To their surprise, though, he simply helped Arthur to his feet, nodding in silent thanks as Arthur smiled gratefully at his manservant.
"Come on then, slowcoach." Merlin said cheerfully to Arthur, holding his arms wide. "You're still only halfway here.
Arthur stared for a moment, glancing behind him at his father, before he laughed, and made his way, slowly, the rest of the way into Merlin's arms.