Hi all! Here's another idea that just wandered into my mind and refused to be let out. I have ideas like this all the time, but usually I only write them in my head. I hope you like it! Let me know if you do! (Or if you don't!) :) That's all for now!

Don't Look Back

In a thoroughly and achingly bright blaze, Merlin found himself no longer to be in his chambres, but rather in a place that curiously resembled the great hall. He panted slightly and examined his clothes, which were a bit singed, but still doing their job.

"Hello," said the mildly bemused voice of Uther Pendragon.

Merlin's insides folded themselves neatly into each other and cowered. However, all his poor, half-baked excuses died on the tip of his tongue when he turned to face the throne.

There were two of them. That was the first thing he noticed. Side by side, one slightly smaller and more delicate. In one of them was a woman, pale, blonde, beautiful, dressed in bold violet. Merlin had seen her once before, and he would have recognized her anymore. How could she be here? he wondered, aghast.

The answer sat next to her on the other throne.

"Hi," breathed Merlin, relaxing the tiniest bit.

King Uther sat before him, observing him silently, which was very important because it meant he wasn't calling for guards. His hair was a light brown, his face not yet hardened by time, his posture strong. Only his grey eyes remained more or less the same.

Uther and Ygraine were not alone in the room. To the right of the queen was a grey-haired Gaius, standing in robes of Pendragon scarlet, and beside him was Nimueh, looking exactly the same as ever. Neither one of them so much as blinked when he caught their eye. Of course not; he was nothing to them. Yet.

On Uther's left, there was a boy Merlin had never seen before, presumably Uther's current manservant, and last was - Merlin's breath caught - his father, proud and regal, hardly recognizable as the wild man he'd met in a cave. If not for the parts of himself he saw in Balinor, he might not have known him at all.

"You must be very powerful," remarked Uther thoughtfully. He glanced at Nimueh, who nodded slowly in agreement. "Very powerful indeed, if my Court Sorceress will acknowledge it. May I ask who you are?"

It was dizzying, Uther inquiring him calmly about his magic. "Your Majesty," Merlin managed, bowing deeper than he'd ever bothered to bow to Uther before, which wasn't saying much. "My name is... E-Emrys."

There was a sharp intake of breath from Nimueh. Her unnaturally bright eyes flared, and she looked desperate to say something. She regained her composure in time to wave away the king's questioning glance, however.

"Forgive me for asking," said Gaius out of the blue, "but how exactly did you get here? I have seen many people travel with magic, and I must say, your arrival was unlike any of them. There was a light..."

It was only now that Merlin realized how he must look, having burst in here all of a sudden, all mangy and looking like he'd just come out of a burning building. He must look a bit deranged, except everyone was too busy judging his powers to care.

"If you are so very powerful," Uther added, "how is it I've never heard of you?"

"Well, for starters, I'm pretty sure I haven't been born yet," said Merlin helpfully. Actually, he was positive he hadn't been born yet. He deliberately avoided looking at Balinor. "I think... the reason I didn't appear the same way everyone else does is because I traveled through space and, er, time."

There was a pregnant pause.

"Impossible," scoffed Uther. "Gaius could tell you that. Or Nimueh. It's impossible. Isn't it?" He glanced desperately at the two.

"Not impossible, no," said Gaius.

"Only extremely difficult and even more unreliable," informed Nimueh derisively. "You'll be pulled back to your own time any minute now. The world doesn't like this kind of interference."

"I see," said Merlin, only sort of stretching the truth.

He hadn't even been trying to time travel, really. He'd been researching ways to counter a spell that had turned all the rats in the kingdom into bloodthirsty beasts whose saliva was poisonous to people and other animals alike. He'd found one incantation he liked and tried it.

Somehow, he felt he'd gotten it a bit wrong.

"Well, if I'm about to get yanked back to my own time anyway, I hope you won't consider it rude if I Ieave," said Merlin.

"Wait!" demanded Uther, rising to his feet. "There is so much you could tell us. What of Camelot, years from now? How many years have you crossed between your own and ours?"

"Sorry," said Merlin, "I don't think it would be a good idea to tell you much. You're still the king, though." Albeit no longer of sound mind, nor the one handling anything important.

Ygraine smiled kindly. "See, Uther," she said, putting a hand to her belly, "our son has years ahead of him to prepare for the throne."

Merlin's heart clenched. "You're with child!" he exclaimed.

He stared, and sure enough, there was the slightest of bumps emerging from her slender stomach. That was Arthur. He'd gone back in time and now his other half was nothing more than a tiny nuisance residing in a young woman's womb.

The look in Uther's eyes as they roamed between his wife's face and stomach was pure love. But Merlin knew something they didn't - that the love and the happiness between them would end with that baby.

"He's a boy," beamed Uther. "Nimueh is positive he's a boy. The future king."

One and Future, Merlin corrected mentally. But his mind was racing.

He had a chance to warn them. The beautiful Ygraine needn't die. Uther's heart needn't break to the point where it shattered everything in him. Hundreds of sorcerers needn't burn so one child could come into the world, born of magic that went wrong, all wrong.

Arthur Pendragon would never know the difference, one way or the other.

"Congratulations," Merlin said hoarsely. His heart thundered in his ears. "Listen-"

It was akin to being swallowed up by water, except that the sensation pulled him upward. The light blazed, and Merlin thought for sure he was either being blinded or killed or both, and then he was deposited unceremoniously on the floor of his bedroom.

His spell book was still open on his bed. That was dangerous, he reckoned, but what could he have done about? On closer inspection of the spell he'd tried and epically failed to perform, he found he'd been mixing parts of it with the spell above it.

He hadn't really been about to tell Ygraine the truth. Had he? It felt a lot like he had. He had started the sentence, had sort of planned on finishing it. It made complete sense, hundreds of people in exchange for one that technically hadn't been born yet in the first place.

Except, he had. Merlin knew Arthur like his own brother, was bound to him with something far stronger than brotherhood. He would never have done that. Would he?

You'll be pulled back to your own time any minute now, Nimueh said. How very lucky. Or unlucky. No, definitely lucky.

"Merlin," barked Gaius, peering through the door. He lowered his voice. "Put that book away, I have a patient."

"Yes, Gaius," sighed Merlin, closing it and shoving it out of sight.

He wouldn't have had to hide it. Not if he'd said something. Which he wouldn't have. He was almost sure. Was it bad, how relieved he was to think that maybe he hadn't been about to save hundreds of lives? Some of them friends? Some of them who could have been friends?

He considered trying to go back, finish his sentence somehow, prove that he knew what he would really do in that situation. However, if Nimueh was right, time travel was finnicky. There was no way of knowing when and where he'd end up, and he probably couldn't correctly botch that spell again if he tried.

"I wasn't going to," he muttered to himself.

When he fell asleep late that night, Ygraine's face haunted his dreams.