A/N: This idea was bugging me at the same time I was writing "The Morning After". I'm so intrigued by how a romantic factor ties into Merlin keeping his magic a secret from Arthur. This story is about the confusion and misunderstanding on Arthur's side and the struggle to do what's right on Merlin's side. Towards the end it also morphs into a nice Arthur finds out. This idea turned into so much more than I ever expected. I cover a lot of ground and I'm hoping I didn't rush anything too much. This easily could have been a long multi-chapter story but I don't trust myself to stick with it.

This is a Merthur story rated M for sexual situations. The beginning of the story is set at the end of season three. This story is unbeta'd but I did my best to reread it and edit several times. I don't own Merlin, but this story is mine!

Tragic Love

It was a hot summer day in Camelot when Merlin's world got turned upside down. It started like any normal day in Camelot (which really wasn't quite as normal for Merlin, but that's besides the point), then again, extraordinary days usually do start out just as any other before they take you for surprise.

Due to the extreme heat, Merlin shed his shirt and wiped his brow with the material. He could feel the drops of sweat rolling from the nape of his neck, down over his shoulder blades. Scrubbing Arthur's floors was always the worst during the pinnacle of summer heat waves. Being the prince's personal manservant gave him the small pleasure of privacy and; therefore, the leisure of ignoring propriety and doing whatever it took to keep cool while completing his chores. Arthur was out training his knights which made things even better for Merlin. Things had been strained between them lately and Merlin had no idea what was wrong, or how to fix it, which bothered him the most. As much as Arthur and him bickered, it truly hurt when there was a real problem between them. He considered Arthur his best friend and, if he was honest with himself, had deep feelings for the man. The only thing keeping him from acting on those feelings was that he could never be with Arthur unless Arthur knew his secret. It wouldn't be fair to expect him to be open with him when he was hiding such a big part of himself. Not to mention the fact that Camelot would need a Queen and heirs someday; neither of which he had to offer. Destiny seemed to want a lot out of him, and didn't want to give anything in return. It was a lonely, frustrating job but someone had to do it.

With a heavy sigh, Merlin dipped his cloth in the wash bucket next to him and and rung it out over his head. The cool water was an instant relief against his hot skin and he couldn't help but let out a small moan. He heard a gasp behind him and turned to see Arthur standing in the door looking riled up from his training session, and hot in more ways than one. Arthur was looking at him in a way that made his insides flip flop and his pants become a little tighter. He had never directed that look at him before and it was terrifying and thrilling all at once. Merlin stood up and sheepishly went to put his shirt back on. As soon as he had broke eye contact, Arthur had closed the door and purposely strode to his side. He roughly pushed Merlin into the wall and ground his mouth onto his. He had been wanting this for months and the culmination of the day's events; adrenaline from sword practice, the heat, Merlin's wet bare chest, had simply been too much. Merlin's breath caught in his throat as he felt Arthur's lips move over his own at a frenzied pace. The kiss was demanding, dirty and probably the most sensual thing Merlin had ever experienced. Feeling the need for more, as much as he could get, Merlin wrapped his hands around Arthur's waist and pulled him tight against his own body. The metal of his armor was cool against his skin and made goosebumps rise all over. Arthur nipped on his bottom lip as Merlin ran his hands through the golden hair he had only dreamed of touching. To let them breathe, Arthur abandoned Merlin's lips and started kissing down the side of his exposed neck.

"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do this. You're such a tease always wearing those ridiculous neckerchiefs to cover up your neck." Merlin had never heard Arthur's voice so low and sultry, it could be very addicting knowing he was the reason for Arthur's desire. Arthur continued to nip at Merlin's neck and let his hands roam freely over his friends small frame. Sadly, it all came to a screeching halt when Arthur palmed the hard length of Merlin's cock. The intimate touch was like having a bucket of freezing cold stream water poured over his head. All at once, Merlin remembered why this wasn't possible and pushed Arthur away from him.

"Shit, shit, shit!" He didn't dare look Arthur in the eye as he gathered his shirt and put it back on. His skin was still tingling from Arthur's touch and a huge knot was gathering in his stomach, screaming at him to indulge in all the things he had been fantasizing about for the past two years. Merlin didn't look back as he left the prince where he stood frozen. He couldn't bear to see the hurt and rejection that must be displayed on his handsome face.

Merlin ignored the calls from Gauis as he walked into his room and locked the door behind him. He face planted on his bed and let the pain course through his broken heart. Arthur had just offered everything he had ever wanted and he had to turn it down. If he didn't find a way to get a hold of his feelings he was never going to be able to stand at Arthur's side without feeling the sting of being denied the only thing he wanted from life. Realizing there was absolutely nothing he could do about the situation, he gritted his teeth, stood up and walked out his door to finish his duties for the day.

Arthur didn't speak to him for two weeks, three days and seven hours. It was eating Merlin alive on the inside that he had possibly lost his best friend, but he didn't say anything and let Arthur be mad at him. He knew he deserved it for the way he had walked out on him with no explanation. As it was, the first words he spoke to him were "You missed a spot" as he kicked his water bucket over causing a huge mess. While it was completely ridiculous, Merlin thought he would burst with joy for finally being on talking terms again; even if it was just cruel insults.

"Arthur, I'm sorry." he whispered as the prince moved past him on the way to the wash basin. "Don't Merlin. We're never to talk about that day. It was inappropriate of me to take advantage of my position."

"No Arthur, you didn't. I just..."

"Merlin. Drop. It."

"Yes, sire." Merlin's gaze returned to the floor as he tried to stop the anger and sadness from bubbling up and out of him.

Things were highly awkward between them for months. Fortunately, trying to figure out where Morganna had disappeared to and what her plans could be proved to be a great distraction for both boys. Once they were caught up in the search for the rogue sorceress things finally returned to normal between them. They were able to reform their once solid friendship and act as if nothing had happened. It wasn't until Arthur's birthday that things went terribly wrong again. The kingdom had of course thrown a huge celebration in Arthur's honor. Nobles visited from across the lands in order to get a glimpse of the young prince and once again try to solidify marriage deals between their nations and Prince Arthur. Merlin had worked from sunup to sundown for weeks to help prepare for the feast and ensure everything was ready for the visiting nobles. On the night of the celebration Merlin was released from all other duties besides attending the prince. Arthur made him wear the stupid hat just to spite him, but he was getting used to looking like an idiot when it came to being Arthur's manservant. The servants were allowed to take five minute breaks when the royals did in order to retrieve more wine and make preparations for the next meal course. It was during these breaks that many servants, including Merlin, would indulge in some drink of their own. Drinking some wine made the night go by faster and seem less monotonous. It was these circumstances that led to a drunk Merlin and a very drunk Arthur stumbling back to Arthur's room after the celebration.

Just as he did every night, Merlin helped Arthur from his clothes and slip into his night shirt. Except this time, he couldn't keep his eyes from the smooth expanse of Arthur's chest. Merlin dragged his fingertips over the skin and shuddered as he felt it quiver under his touch. Subconsciously, he leaned in and inhaled the scent that was uniquely Arthur. Before he could stop himself, he planted a harsh kiss on his neck, hard enough to leave a mark. "Merlin?" His voice snapped Merlin back to reality and he took a quick step away.

"Fuck, I'm so sorry." Merlin took a deep breath and combed a hand through his tangled dark locks. "I shouldn't have done that." Rage pooled in Arthur's crystal blue eyes as he punched Merlin hard in the shoulder. "What the fuck was that Merlin? I've thought for almost a year that I forced myself on you that day and this whole time you've felt the same way? How could you!"

"Because it doesn't change anything! I care for you more than just a quick fuck and there's several reasons we can't be together; mainly because one day you will need a Queen and heirs and I can't help you with that. And there's other reasons too that I can't tell you about right now, as if the other reason's weren't enough!"

"I don't care about all that. I'm the prince, I should be able to have what I want."

"You know better than anyone how untrue that is. I'm sorry I've made this awkward for us again. We may not talk about it, but you're my friend and I really don't want to loose that."

"Don't do this. Stay." Merlin smiled sadly and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, but we can't do this." He moved to walk away, but Arthur's grip on his shoulder tightened. "Promise me something and I'll never bring this up again." His voice was desperate and pleading.

"I'll promise if I can."

"Promise me you'll tell me what the other stuff is someday, when you're ready." Merlin smiled and thought of the day he would finally be able to tell Arthur about his magic. Nothing could ever happen between them, but it was a promise he could make.

"Sure Arthur, I can do that, but it still doesn't change the fact you need heirs so it's kind of a moot point."

"Let me worry about the royal politics. Just remember you promised you'd come to me when you're ready." Merlin nodded and Arthur released his grip on his shoulder. Merlin turned and walked away from the love of his life for the second time, leaving a piece of himself with him. He was beginning to worry that by the time he got to the end of their destiny their wouldn't be any of him left.

The next two years passed with a lot of adventure and heartache. There were many battles with Morganna that left too many people dead and people grieving. Her hatred had fully consumed her and their was nothing left of the charming woman she used to be. Besides these battles, life in Camelot was much the same. Merlin studied under Gauis while trying to increase his magic skill and simultaneously taking care of the prince and saving his life. Besides the occasional forlorn look and lingering touch, no further incidences transpired between Merlin and Arthur. The majority of the time, Merlin didn't know whether to be upset or happy they were both able to contain themselves. It hurt the most when Arthur would get a hopeful look in his eye, expecting Merlin to confess whatever his reason was for keeping his affections at bay. Every time this happened, Merlin forced himself to give a sad smile in response and walk away.

Uther had never been the same after Morganna's betrayal, but he had started to pull away from everyone until he became deathly ill. According to Gauis he had simply lost the will to live and it was preventing his recovery. Arthur had tried to speak to him, but his heartache and guilt were too much to overcome. Merlin was there for Arthur as much as he could be during those awful days. The pressure of the crown was weighing heavily down on him, to the point he thought he would burst. After a long day of meetings with the royal advisers, Arthur returned to his room and posted himself at his window, as he often did to contemplate things.

"Are you alright sire?" Came Merlin's concerned voice from the other side of the room.

"Do you think I'm ready Merlin?"

"Of course you are. You've been preparing for this for your entire life." Arthur nodded his agreement, but the concerned lines didn't recede from his brow. Merlin walked over to his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder. A tingle of pleasure shot down his arm at the contact, but he brushed it away. Ignoring his attraction to Arthur didn't get any easier, but it had become second nature to him. "You are ready for this. You are going to be a great king, not because you've been trained your whole life, but because you would do anything for your people. You are kind, just, and the best man a king could be. Camelot will be lucky to have you as her king. The people are ready for your rule Arthur."

The confidence returned to Arthur's eyes and he stood a little taller. "It always surprises me when you have these bouts of wisdom." They were quite and stared into each others eyes much longer than was appropriate. More than anything, they both wanted to lean in and kiss each other, but they held back. Merlin let out a nervous cough and let himself out of the room. Uther died three weeks later and Arthur's coronation ceremony was the day after his funeral. Camelot mourned the death of their king, but were excited to usher in the reign Arthur would bring.

"I'm going to tell Arthur about my magic after the coronation ceremony." Gauis stopped crushing the herbs he was working on for one of his remedies and gave Merlin his notorious eyebrow.

"Are you sure it's the right time?"

"No. But I told myself it would be when he was king and I can't keep this a secret any longer. I've made sure he lived to be king, if fate wants me by his side for his reign then they can see to it."

"And what if he decides to keep the ban on magic?"

Merlin tried to think of Arthur watching as he burned and it tore at the remaining shreds of his heart. "Then I'll let him have his justice." Gauis' eyebrows rose in shock and he opened his mouth to protest.

"I love him Gauis. I know it's unorthodox, wrong, and impossible but me and my magic love him and after everything we've been through I have nothing to live for if he is the one to sentence my death. I'm his to do with as he pleases." Merlin left the room before Gauis could try and convince him to do anything else.

He stood with the other servants and watched with bursting pride as Arthur was crowned king of Camelot. As per usual, he stayed with him throughout the night, serving him in whatever he needed. The next day he requested an official audience with the king. He had continued his status as Arthur's personal manservant and was thus granted the request. When he entered the hall Arthur was pouring over maps and speaking with his various advisers. "What is it Merlin?" he asked without looking up.

"I'm here to fulfill my promise to you." Arthur's had snapped up to meet Merlin's eyes. "Everyone out. Now." With the authority dripping from his voice, no one questioned him and fled the room. "You too." he pointed to the guards. They dipped their heads in respect and stepped outside, closing the doors behind them.

Merlin closed the distance between them and took Arthur's face in-between his hands. After years of struggling with his feelings, he let them bubble to the surface. He finally let himself give into his urges and claimed Arthur's lips with his own. Arthur moaned and groped at Merlin's body. It was over far to quickly for both of them, but kissing wasn't what Merlin had come for. "I know we can't be together, but I had to kiss you one last time in case you hate me after this."

"I could never hate you."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that. I have a secret I've been keeping from you. Besides the obvious reasons, it's why I couldn't ever let us happen. I couldn't ask you to be free and open with me when you don't know everything about me. It would have made telling you this a whole lot harder."

Arthur laughed thinking that this must be a joke. "You have a secret? But you can't lie Merlin, especially not to me."

"Oh Arthur, you have no idea how much I've lied to you. Just please, I beg of you to remember that I'm still the same man that has loyally been by your side. I will be your servant until the day I die. It's up to you whether that day is sooner or later."

The somber tone in Merlin's voice made the king pause and take him seriously. "What are you talking about?"

Merlin closed his eyes and bit his lip. He always knew this was going to be hard, but the nerves were threatening to overtake him. "There's really no easy way to say this so I guess I'll just show you." Merlin whispered the words to summon the same ball of light that had subconsciously saved Arthur from the spiders. He kept his eyes on Arthur, allowing him to see the gold in his eyes, the unmistakable proof of his power. Arthur froze at the display and held his breathe. Magic was evil! Merlin was evil? "No, no no no. How is this possible? Why are you here? Are you trying to kill me? Are you in cohorts with Morgonna?" He was gasping for breath and it felt like he was going to pass out.

"I promise I mean you no harm Arthur. Please remember what I told you, no matter what I'm your servant until the day I day. I realize all of your encounters with magic have not been positive and you've been taught to hate it, but I beg you to see my side of the story. I was born with my powers, I didn't study it until I came to Camelot and only then to gain better control so I could help you better. There have been so many magical attempts on your life and I have been there to deflect each and every one. I have stood by your side and made sure you got to your place on the throne. I believe in the king you are and want to continue to protect you if you will let me."

Arthur sat quietly, trying to process all the new information. He knew Merlin was telling the truth and calmed himself from his intial panic attack. He knew Merlin wasn't evil, but the sting of so many lies hurt. "Leave." He commanded. The pain of betrayal was obvious in his tone and it cut Merlin to the core. "I'll be out of Camelot by sundown. I only want to say goodbye to Gauis, Gwen and the knights." With a heavy heart, Merlin turned around and started to walk out of the grand hall. He was happy Arthur wasn't having him killed, but having to live without him was almost worse.

"No, you idiot. You are not allowed to leave Camelot. I just meant leave my presence."

"Are you going to have me killed?" The following pause was full of tension and dread on Merlin's part. He heard Arthur's troubled sigh behind him. "I don't know. I should, but you know how I feel for you. I couldn't ever watch you burn The gods help me, but I couldn't. You're many things, but you're not evil."

"Thank you." Merlin whispered before he left the room.

For the next few days Merlin stayed as far away from Arthur as possible. He didn't speak to him when he brought him his breakfast, and did all of his chores when Arthur was out attending to his duties. Arthur was spending his time non-stop thinking about the past five years. Now that he knew Merlin had magic, he was honestly surprised he hadn't figured out for himself a long time ago. He always knew someone was watching out for him, he just hadn't ever thought magic was involved. Who would be stupid enough to use magic so frequently that close to royalty in Camelot? Of course he should have realized that yes, Merlin would be that stupid. He never thought before he acted. As the days passed, Arthur realized that this new information didn't change his view of his manservant. He was still a bumbling idiot that held his heart in the palm of his hand. It did; however, make his heart clench to realize that not all magic was evil and Morganna was evil by her own choice. He missed his sister.

Things went this way for three unbearable weeks until Arthur finally broke the silence. "If you're a sorcerer why do you play the role of a servant? Why scrub the floors and mend my clothes when you could make me bow at your feet?"

Merlin scoffed at that and moved to sit with Arthur at the table. "Well first of all, I'm a servant because being a warlock doesn't make me better than anyone else. I'm still not born of noble blood. I've actually been offered the opportunity to put you in that position multiple times by people like Nimeuh and Siegan, but I want to stand beside you. It will never be your place to bow before anyone. Besides, being your servant makes it far easier to protect you. What makes you think I'm that powerful anyways?"

"I've been doing a lot of thinking and I was finally able to fill in all the things that didn't make sense. All the times we miraculous survived impossible situations, or I made it out alive when I shouldn't have. The things you've done would not be possible without strong magic. Am I right?"

The time for lying was over so Merlin kept his chin held high and let some pride and simultaneous fear seep into his voice. "I'm very powerful. Enough that it scares me at times. The power can be overwhelming, but you keep me grounded."

"Are you powerful enough to defeat Morganna?" That was Arthur, always thinking about his people and kingdom first. It brought a warmth to Merlin's heart to be allowed to see this side of him again.

"I believe I can. Her magic is dark and powerful, fueled by her hatred, but mine is fueled by love and devotion to you and Camelot. And supposedly I'm inherently more powerful than her so that helps." Arthur nodded his head in understanding.

"Have you ever used your magic against me or Camelot?"

"No. Never."

Arthur nodded his head again and walked over to Merlin. "Then that's all I need to know to trust you. Tomorrow I will make you court sorcerer and lift the ban on magic. We will have much to talk about between ourselves and my other court advisers. It has been many years since magic has thrived in Camelot and it will take some time for the people to get used to the change. Are you ready for the responsibility?"

"I've been waiting for this moment for a very long time. I would be honored to serve Camelot with my magic." Apparently Arthur thought the best way to seal the deal was with a toe-curling kiss. His fingers dug into Merlin's back as he pulled him into a crushing embrace.

"Now that that's all over with can I please fuck you now? You've made me wait too long Merlin." Merlin laughed halfheartedly and placed a kiss on Arthur's cheek. "You know we can't. You're people will always come first, as it should be, and if I have you once I could never let you go. What of Gwen? She will make a tremendous queen and it would break my heart to have to step aside."

"We can figure something out later, but we can't deny this. I can't go on any longer knowing we both want each other and doing nothing about it. I understand and thank you for not doing anything before I knew about your magic. That would have made it harder for me to trust you, but you don't have to be strong anymore. Stop trying to be the hero and just let me have this." Before he could object, Arthur grabbed his arms and pushed him down onto the bed. Arthur pulled off Merlin's shirt while laying open mouthed kisses to his chest and belly. Each press of Arthur's lips to his skin sent shocks of pleasure running through his body and straight towards his cock. Merlin squirmed under Arthur, trying to do whatever he could to get more friction in the place he wanted it most. As if answering his unspoken request, Arthur lowered himself against Merlin and let him feel the proof of his desire against his own hardened length. Any leftover resistance within him died in that moment and passion flared up in him with a vengeance he didn't know he possessed. He moaned into Arthur's mouth as he kissed him roughly.

"Too much clothes" he whispered with ragged breaths in-between heated kisses. Arthur chuckled in response and stood up to remove his shirt and pants. Merlin had seen him naked several times before; it kind of went with the job, but it had never meant as much to him as it did then. He was finally able to take in all of Arthur without feeling like a perv for staring, he was finally able to touch without feeling the guilt weighing down on him. It was such a beautiful body too; defined lines with hard muscle tone built from years of training. His eyes were the bluest thing Merlin had ever seen and his golden locks were begging to have his hands running through them. Without taking his eyes from Arthur, Merlin undid his laces and removed the last piece of barrier between them. Arthur's gaze was purely lascivious and drank in every inch of his skin with extreme hunger. Unable to wait any longer, Arthur lowered himself back onto Merlin and both boys groaned at the skin on skin contact. When their dicks rubbed together Merlin couldn't help but throw his head back and moan deep in his throat. Nothing had ever come close to feeling like this; so completely out of control and beyond pleasurable.

They took a moment to bask in the feel of finally being so close to one another. Every inch of Merlin's skin was on fire and tingling with an almost painful pleasure. "Please, Arthur." Arthur hummed happily in his ear and pulled back to look into his eyes. The amount of love and devotion reflected there made Merlin's heart constrict. He couldn't ever remember feeling this happy and cared for. Putting one hand by Merlin's head to steady himself, Arthur reached his other hand to the side of the bed and dipped his fingers in a tub of oil. He reached between them and wrapped both their cocks in a pleasurably tight grip. Uncontrollably, Merlin's hips bucked up into his hand and he bit down on Arthur's shoulder. There was so much he wanted to do with Arthur; he craved to be completely filled with him, but he knew neither of them were going to last after having to deny their attraction for so many years. Arthur continued his maddening slow pace, driving both men to near insanity. Merlin's hands were franticly roaming his body, looking for something to try and hold on to. "More, faster. Please." he begged completely unabashed. Arthur consented to his pleas and gripped their swollen cocks even tighter in his hand, and began to pump them with furious vigor. Merlin could feel his magic begin to bubble below the surface and and closed his eyes tight to try and stem it off.

Arthur slowed his grinding and nudged Merlin's chin with his nose. "What's wrong?" Merlin gritted his teeth and tried not to let the frustration ruin this moment with the only person he had truly loved.

"My magic. It's hard to control like this. I'm sorry, I don't want to scare you."

Arthur resumed his quick pace and leaned down to whisper in his ear. "It's ok, let me see. I want all of you." Merlin felt a jolt of pleasure surge through him at those words and his eyes flew open. Arthur gasped at the gold blaze Merlin's eyes had turned into, they were breathtaking. Merlin's skin started to glow a faint gold color as well and it swept up and around Arthur. As the golden tendrils covered his skin, Arthur felt like he was touching Merlin's soul. Each and every pinpoint of magic was like a needle of pure ecstasy. "Fuck Merlin!" The steady rhythm of their silky cocks sliding together finally became to much for Merlin and he shouted Arthur's name as he crested over the waves of completion. His entire body shuddered with release and his magic poured all his pleasure back into Arthur. Feeling Merlin's ecstasy mixed with his own was maddening for Arthur, he bit Merlin's neck as he finally let go and joined him in orgasmic bliss. Gently, Arthur rolled off of him and pulled him into his side. Both of their stomachs were a sticky mess, but the afterglow was so sweet that neither noticed it.

Merlin nuzzled into Arthur's neck and practically purred his approval. "I love you Arthur Pendragon." Arthur didn't think he could be any more sated, but those words from Merlin's soft lips put him over the top. This was officially the best day of his life. "I love you too Merlin." Merlin pulled back and gave him his signature goofy grin before giving him a sweet kiss.

"You're still a prat though."

"And you're still an idiot!" They both grinned and hugged the other tight. In his heart, Merlin realized Arthur had been right about this. It wasn't right in the traditional sense, and there would be many barriers to overcome, but this was his destiny. He was meant to be by Arthur's side in every way possible. Nothing had ever felt more right than being tucked safely in his arms.

Their story was doomed to be tragic, but they would unite the land and become legends first. And a tragic ending meant nothing when they had each other for a lifetime. Arthur was the greatest king and feared nothing, because he had Merlin. Merlin was the most powerful sorcerer of all time who always used his magic for good, because he had Arthur. They were each others rocks in the years to come; each one side of the same coin.


A/N: So what did you think? It was a little heavier than I expected it to be, but I think the touch of angst suits them. This was my first attempt at any type of M/M slash so please give me some feedback, but please be nice- it was a huge challenge for me to write that. Reviews = love peeps!