Title: Try, Try Again
Summary: In which Arthur tries, several times, to name Merlin as Court Sorcerer, and things just keep going wrong. Expanded 'Fractions' 95 by llLethell.
Disclaimer: The plot isn't even mine, haha.
AN – This is expanded from one of llLethell's brilliant drabbles - number 95, I believe. Many thanks for letting me expand! Also, The next bit of The Lost is coming. I just needed a break from the angst. Back to the slightly cracky oneshots I so love for this thing. XD
The first time that Arthur tried to name Merlin as Court Sorcerer and officially repeal the laws on magic in front of the people, it all went rather wrong. And by rather wrong he meant it all went completely, bloody, as wrong as it can go wrong.
And, as far as Arthur was concerned, it was all Merlin's fault. Merlin disagreed. He thought, while it was partly his fault, that most of the blame landed squarely on Arthur's shoulders. Gwaine thought they were both to blame while Lancelot and Gwen stayed neutral. So, business as usual, there. The point is, though, that the first time that Arthur tried to name Merlin as Court Sorcerer of Camelot, he failed. Miserably.
It went like this:
Merlin had been helping Gaius mash and pound and boil things for the better part of the morning. Then, right as he was in the middle of making the physician's patented hangover cure, he'd received a message that King Arthur needed him straight away. Merlin, who was feeling more than a bit contrary at that moment, told the messenger that Arthur could wait an hour. Ten minutes later, the messenger was back with a guard, saying that King Arthur would see him now.
"What is it that couldn't wait one hour?" Merlin moaned as he came around the corner to where he was to meet the king. But upon catching sight of Arthur, wearing his crown and clothes that looked cleaner than usual, he stopped, squinting at Arthur suspiciously. "Why are you all fancy?"
"Because," Arthur said, "I have to proclaim things today."
"Okay," said Merlin slowly, drawing the word out, trying and failing to grasp what was happening, "And what is that and how does it need me here right now? I was helping Gaius, you know, and I don't think that he'll appreciate –"
"I'm proclaiming to the people who is to be the Court Sorcerer of Camelot," said Arthur, "And don't worry about Gaius, he's in on it."
Merlin cocked his head slightly. "Er," he said, still feeling rather desperately that he was missing something rather large. He looked around himself, "Is he here?"
"Your appointment to Court Sorcerer," said Merlin.
"What about me?"
"Oh, for the love of," Arthur cut off, rubbing his forehead, "You're going to be the Court Sorcerer, you idiot. God help me, but it's you."
Merlin blinked once. Again. Three times for good measure. "Oh," he said, softly, head suddenly feeling like it was going to float away. "Really?"
"Er. Right now?"
"Yes, Merlin, right now," Arthur said, and it looked like the king wanted more than a little to start hitting Merlin. "Now, the crowd's been waiting long enough, let's get this over with, yes?"
Merlin realized that he could hear the crowd outside, murmuring and talking away. It sounded like a big crowd. A very, very big crowd. Gargantuan, even. All Merlin could think about was the last time that he'd been pushed in front of a large and murmuring crowd, when he'd been pretending to be Dragoon and the large, murmuring crowd had been there to watch him burn away to nothing but ashes. He couldn't help but think that every single time he had seen the courtyard this filled with people, someone ended up dead. Someone magical. Someone much like himself. Oh. Oh, God. He was going to be sick. He was going to be sick and vomit over the edge of balcony and then they'd probably burn him just for that, never mind the magic.
So Merlin, having worked himself into a fairly decent fit of panic, did the reasonable thing. Pointing behind Arthur, he shrieked, "Good God, what is that thing?" and as soon as Arthur looked away, Merlin turned and ran away in the opposite direction. His arms may or may not have been flailing as he did so. By the time Arthur turned back to Merlin, Merlin was nowhere to be seen.
It took two hours to find him. Which gave Merlin plenty of time to barricade the door of the room he'd taken refuge in with all of the furniture he could find and seven different magical fortifications. It was Lancelot who found him. First, he sent a servant running off to fetch Arthur or any of the other knights that he could find. Then, hesitating a moment, Lancelot rapped his knuckles against the door in a soft knock.
"Merlin?" the knight called, trying the doorknob, unsurprised to find it unmoving, "Are you, um, are you alright?"
Merlin's voice, calling through the wood, wavered out, "Define alright."
"I heard what happened," Lancelot said, "Would you like to talk about it?"
"Not really," Merlin answered, "Please go away."
"Why don't you come out, at least," Lancelot tried, halfheartedly.
"No!" Merlin snapped, "No, if I come out, then I'll have to go out there and Arthur'll – oh, God. There's a crowd!"
"But isn't this what you wanted?" Lancelot called back, "For people to embrace magic? For –"
"Look, I fully understand the irony of what I'm about to say," said Merlin, his voice high pitched, cracking, and more than a little bit manic. "But I am not coming out of this room until Arthur refuses to acknowledge my magic."
"Merlin, you're being ridiculous," said Lancelot.
There were several beats of quiet, and then Merlin called back, "…I'm aware. Now go away and leave me to my silliness."
"Lancelot!" a voice called from the other side of the hall. Gwaine came swaggering up, a very large, very full wine bottle in his hands, swinging from his fingers. "I hear you've found our Merlin. Where is he?"
Lancelot pointed. "He doesn't seem to want to come out."
"Don't worry," said Gwaine, patting Lancelot's shoulder distractedly, "I've got this." Gwaine rapped against the door. "Let me in, Merlin."
"I have a present for you," pressed the knight, "And by a present I mean the last bottle of that mulled wine from Arthur's birthday. You know, the stuff that goes straight to your head."
Merlin's arm came bursting through the closed door, grabbed the front of Gwaine's shirt, and pulled him straight through the solid wood. The knight vanished with a small yelp.
"No, no," Lancelot said, pounding against the wood, "No, you do not get to pull people through closed doors, that's cheating! Open up, Merlin!"
He didn't get an answer. It didn't stop him from trying, though. No amount of pleading, bargaining, or bribery got even an answer. So it was that when Arthur finally showed up, poor Lancelot was feeling slightly overworked and more than a little bit hoarse.
"Alright," Arthur growled, cracking his knuckles, "Where is he?"
Lancelot pointed at the door, and said, "He pulled Gwaine in about an hour ago, but I can't get them out."
"Gwaine?" said Arthur, "He's alone with Gwaine?"
"Well," said Lancelot, "He's alone with Gwaine and wine."
"Because that makes it better," Arthur muttered, and slammed his fist against the door. "Merlin! I order you to come out of there right now!"
He didn't get an answer. Lancelot wasn't overly surprised. "Do you have any idea what's really going on?" the knight asked, "I had thought that Merlin thought this a good thing."
"So did I," Arthur said, raising his voice so to be heard through the door, "But Merlin's a girl and is prone to mood swings, seeing as he ran away like a small child."
"Why'd he run?" Lancelot said, "Running doesn't sound much like Merlin."
"He panicked, I suppose," said Arthur, "Most people would be thrilled to learn they're being promoted to a member of the court, but Merlin? No, no, we'll run away and flap our arms like we're trying to fly –"
"Wait," said Lancelot, holding up a hand, "'Thrilled to learn', Arthur? Are you saying this was the first time Merlin heard about this?"
"It seemed like it, yes," said Arthur, a small frown pulling his eyebrows together, "Why do you ask?"
"Have you ever paid attention when he starts talking about his magic?" Lancelot said, "Not to what he was saying, but how he was saying it? He gets all twitchy and won't look anyone in the eye. Merlin's been hiding his entire life. He's been living knowing that he would be killed if anyone were to know who he really was."
"Yes," said Arthur slowly, "And?"
"And you and Camelot are not the only ones who need time to adjust to this, Arthur," said Lancelot, a small smile accompanying his words, "And I'm thinking that trying to push Merlin in front of huge crowd of people to bellow about his magic without warning him first wasn't the greatest strategic move you've ever made."
"Come on," Arthur said, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes, "Everyone basically knows, anyway. This is just a formality, and Merlin –"
"Is probably as oblivious as ever," Lancelot said, "Think about it, for a moment. Merlin is…well, he's Merlin, isn't he? He's probably been helping prepare for his own celebration feast and didn't realize it."
"I suppose I may've been a bit hasty," Arthur admitted, "But that's hardly an excuse to –"
The door flew open and Gwaine came staggering out. "I have defeated the mighty warlock!" he said, swaying slightly and grinning, and a very large, very empty wine bottle dangling from his fingers. Lancelot and Arthur peered around the drunken knight to the room beyond. Merlin was sprawled in the center of the room, giggling to himself as he stared at the ceiling.
"Oh, hell," said Arthur, "Now what?"
"Now you go and address your public!" said Gwaine happily.
Arthur rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I can't announce it now, look at him!"
Jabbing a finger into Gwaine's face, Arthur growled out, "This is all your fault."
"What?" Gwaine said, "At least he isn't panicking anymore, right?"
Which is how Arthur found himself standing alone on a balcony, most of Camelot squeezed into the courtyard, staring up at him expectantly. "I," he announced, then cleared his throat and started again, "I would like to proclaim that I have nothing to proclaim. That is all."
A confused flurry of voices rose from the courtyard. Arthur ignored them and swept back into the castle. Lancelot was standing there with the still swaying and drunk Gwaine. "Er," said Lancelot, "That was –"
"Not a word out of you," growled Arthur, and then pointed at Gwaine, "Out of either of you."
"Your father," said Gwaine, his voice quivering with barely contained laughter, "Would be so proud."
"I said not a word!"
The second time Arthur tried to name Merlin as Court Sorcerer, he failed again. This time, though, even Arthur had to admit that it wasn't Merlin's fault. Well, not entirely Merlin's fault, but, you know, really, if you look back to the root of the problem, then it's –
Anyway. It goes like this:
Arthur thought that everything would be smooth sailing this time. It had been nearly a week since the Incident Never To Be Mentioned Again, and things were looking a bit better this time around. Between Gwen, Lancelot, and himself, they'd managed to coax Merlin out onto the balcony. While the warlock's face was tinged around the edges with green, and he was swaying side to side, at least he was on the balcony.
Arthur was willing to take whatever victory he could.
The people were there, looking up expectantly. If anything, there seemed to be even more than at the Incident Never To Be Mentioned Again, probably drawn by the stories of that particular debacle. Arthur, feeling confident, opened his mouth, and called out, "People of Camelot, I –"
Arthur wasn't sure what happened next, at least not exactly. All he knew was that there was a very, very loud bang. There was the sulfurous, acrid smell of smoke. There was Merlin shouting, "Arthur, down!"
Except Arthur didn't have time to drop down, and there were razor sharp talons like knives digging into his shoulders. Then his feet were off of the ground and the courtyard were twirling away beneath him. Arthur, struggling against the air, looked up to find himself being hauled away by a giant bird that appeared to have been lit on fire. Arthur tried to maneuver an arm around to pull his sword out of his scabbard, but the flaming bird had him in such a way that he couldn't.
The thing seemed content to circle around the castle, screeching loudly from time to time, keeping Arthur with it. It was making its way around for the third time when the rain started.
Arthur caught sight of Merlin, arm outstretched in the downpour, was standing still on the roof – how had he gotten up there so fast? – eyes blazing gold. And at first Arthur thought, great, Merlin will take care of the evil, giant, overgrown chicken. Not a second later, Arthur took back that thought, and replaced it with Merlin's an idiot, and if I don't die right now, I'm going to kill him.
You see, when Merlin made it rain, it put the flames out on the bird. But, apparently, with the exception of the talons and beak, the bird was made entirely of fire. So when the fires went out, the bird vanished, leaving all the solid parts to tumble to the ground. Solid parts that included Arthur.
Then, Arthur wasn't thinking anything, for his world had narrowed down to the fact that he was currently plummeting towards the ground below. Everything was whistling winds and blurred colors, and Arthur didn't even have the time to register that he was going to die when sinewy arms clamped around his torso and suddenly he wasn't falling anymore. He was sitting on solid stone, vice-like arms still wrapped around him.
"Merlin?" Arthur said, his voice rough and, though he'd deny it later, shaking a bit.
"Did you just jump off the roof?"
"Thank you. Now kindly release me."
"I don't think I can, actually," said Merlin, "My arms aren't wanting to work."
But then it didn't matter anyway, because the grip went slack and Merlin tipped against Arthur's back, unconscious and lost to the world.
"All I want is a Court Sorcerer," Arthur muttered, staggering to quivering legs and hauling Merlin up and over his shoulder to bring him to Gaius, "Is that really so much to ask?"
As the knights rushed towards them, Arthur sighed. "Apparently," he said to himself.
Third time's the charm, as they say, and so it was that on his third attempt that Arthur finally managed to officially name Merlin as Camelot's resident magician.
"Ready?" Arthur looked sideways at Merlin, who was paler than usual and picking at the hem of his shirt.
"As I'll ever be."
"You're not going to pull a runner on me again, are you?" Arthur asked.
"Er," said Merlin, "No. No. Well, probably not. I mean –"
"Merlin," Arthur said, "Why are you so nervous?"
"I am not nervous," Merlin said immediately, as his foot began to tap against the floor. Arthur just laughed, and Merlin glared, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Didn't you once tell me," said Arthur, "That everyone got nervous?"
"Not everyone. Only prats."
"Ha. Funny," said Arthur. Merlin didn't relax, though, just continued to glare, arms still crossed, foot still tapping. "Seriously, Merlin, what's the worst thing that could happen?"
"They could all laugh," Merlin said, not missing a single beat, "They could think it's a joke, or worse, that I've enchanted you and am forcing you to do this. Or –"
"After the last time, they all know you're on our side, so that rules out the enchanting. As for laughing, they're probably all too scared of you to do it. You're the Court Sorcerer whether I give you the title or not, so you might as well get paid for it. Now let's just get this over with. I want to eat lunch on time today."
Arthur turned and walked down the hall towards the balcony, not glancing back. After a moment, he heard Merlin's footsteps coming after him. Arthur could also hear Merlin muttering to himself under his breath, small phrases like, "You talk to dragons, this is nothing," and "Oh, God, I'm going to trip and fall off and die and I'll never hear the end of it," and other such things. Arthur wanted to laugh at the fact that Merlin, the great and powerful warlock, the sorcerer who had thrown himself off of a roof a fortnight ago, who could summon lightening with a twitch of his fingers, was quaking in fear at the thought of public speaking. But, for Merlin's sake, he satisfied himself with a small smirk as he swept out onto the balcony.
Merlin followed along behind him.
Just like always.