A/N: My first Merlin fanfic. It's an old horse, the 'reveal' plotline, but I thought I'd give try my hand on it anyway.
This fic is set in the future, which should be obvious.
It's unusual for me to make my characters curse in my stories, but I've come to realize that they are entities apart from myself and that I should keep them in character, even if that means using offensive language.
The battle had been two days ago.
Morgana had died two days ago.
The war had ended two days ago.
Merlin had saved him two days ago.
Arthur had learned two days ago.
Merlin was a sorcerer.
And for two days, the King of Camelot hadn't said a word.
Now, Merlin was back in Camelot. Those who had seen him, and even those who had heard about what had happened dared not go near him; even Gwen had her reservations. Merlin tried not to look at any of them. Their gazes hurt too much, and he needed all his constitution for what lie ahead of him. He quickly knocked on the huge wooden door, and was let in. His bootheels clacked loudly on the stone floor of the throne room. Arthur had his back turned.
The room rang with silent tension, the flurry of thoughts between king and warlock seeming to make an audible din that both drowned out and strengthened the silence. Merlin, who'd known this moment would eventually, inevitably come, spoke first.
"Arthur, I'm sorry." It was little more than a whisper, but it cut through the air like the blast of a trumpet.
The most frightening part of Arthur's response was the fact that he didn't say anything. He didn't do anything, for a long while. Then, he turned on his heel and fixed Merlin with the most horrible, deadly glare that he'd ever seen on the king. Arthur stepped towards Merlin, once, twice, thrice, ever increasing in speed until he was marching full speed toward the serving boy with no signs of slowing down. He stretched out his hand, and it was all Merlin could do from taking a step backwards.
Suddenly, Arthur's fist was closed around his throat, and Merlin could barely breathe. The King squeezed, and fixed Merlin with a hard glare, as if daring him to do something to stop him. When the warlock did nothing but look at Arthur with apologetic eyes, hands clasped calmly behind his back, Arthur's resolve began to waver. Suddenly, Merlin noticed the intense waves of sweat pouring down Arthur's brow, and the furrow of confusion and hurt that was slowly gaining purchase over his face. Then, with every feeling in the world all at once,
"Why?" Arthur screamed. He tried to say something else, but his mouth fumbled and he choked on the words, so he screamed again, "Why, Merlin, damnit, why?" The king shoved Merlin away by the throat.
Merlin staggered back. He was too shell-shocked to respond. He'd expected a lecture, not a questioning. All those years ago, when he'd first entered Arthur's service and determined that Arthur mustn't ever find out about his magic, he'd never counted on the fact that one day, he'd have to explain his deceit not to his prince, but to his friend. He couldn't say anything.
"I-" He coughed away the results of Arthur's death grip, "Arthur… I'm sorry-"
"NO!" He screamed, "Don't say that! If you were sorry, it wouldn't be like this! If you were sorry, you wouldn't have LIED TO ME!" Arthur's voice echoed off the walls menacingly, condemningly. Still, Merlin couldn't say anything. The words 'I'm sorry' burned on his lips again, but he feared Arthur might hurt him if he spoke again. The king continued, "You're a sorcerer! You're a bloody dragonlord! You're.. You're…" Arthur struggled with the name. "You're Emrys!" Arthur stared at Merlin in raging bewilderment before stepping in his face once again. "Don't you think I would've liked to have known that?"
Merlin could feel his voice waver. "Yes, Sire."
"Don't call me that," Arthur spat out. He seemed to want to say something, but was too wrapped up in his emotions to say it. Eventually, "Why did you never tell me?"
Merlin swallowed hard. "You would have killed me, s- Arthur."
Arthur just stared, long and quiet. Then, he spoke a knife into Merlin's heart.
"Merlin, you were my friend."
Merlin felt as though he were living a nightmare. Then the knife twisted in further when Arthur added quietly,
"I trusted you."
The unshed tears burned almost as much as his throat, but Merlin refused to give in to either.
"And I you, Sire." He managed.
Arthur looked slightly surprised, and slightly offended. He turned away. Merlin tried desperately to swallow the aching lump in his throat. He knew this conversation wasn't over. It was a few minutes before Arthur turned and spoke again.
"How long?" He asked simply. Merlin kept his face still as he replied,
"Since before I can remember."
If Arthur was surprised, he didn't show it. "Why did you come to Camelot?"
Merlin was nonplussed for a moment. "To live," He said. "My mother, she feared I would be… noticed too easily in Ealdor. She sent me to live with Gaius – he knew more about magic than she, how to control it. She thought he could help me."
"And why did you enter my service? Why did you-" he paused, as if it pained him to admit it. "Why did you save my life?"
Merlin hesitated. Morgana may have been dead, but the war for Albion was not over. He couldn't mention the destiny that Kilgarrah had spoken of just yet. "You were a prince," He said, "I was a peasant. You were helpless, and I could do something." He looked honestly into the eyes of his monarch. "So I did."
It was Arthur's turn to look nonplussed. An honest, self-sacrificing sorcerer, under his very nose? Saving his very life? Merlin? He shook his head. "I… I just don't understand." He said. "It's not… You're a sorcerer."
"Yes." Merlin was still growing accustomed to the response.
"…And you saved my life." Arthur regarded the other man, and for just a moment, Merlin though he'd begun to calm down. Then, the anger and confusion returned, and Arthur shook his head. "No, no, there has to be some other motive, some other reason. You're a sorcerer!" Arthur's voice rose in volume again, "You should have killed me by now! You can, surely!"
Merlin knew he couldn't stay silent any longer. He had to take a stand for himself.
"Of course I could have killed you," The strength in his voice surprised even him. "I could kill you right now. I could've killed you days, months, years ago, whenever I liked. It'd have be easy, easier than blinking." Arthur seemed incredibly disturbed by his words, but Merlin quickly softened and added hastily, sincerely, "But I never have, Arthur. And I'm not going to. Not ever." He stared his king straight in the eye. "Sorcerer or not, Arthur, my loyalty always has and always will lie with you. You should know that by now."
Merlin was afraid to breathe. Arthur wasn't saying anything. Had his words had an effect? Had he condemned himself? How would Arthur react? A million possibilities flew through Merlin's head, but out of all of them, none of them amounted to what happened next.
"So it has," Arthur murmured. Then he slowly turned, glanced at Merlin uncertainly one last time, and walked away.
Alone in the throne room, Merlin felt the adrenaline and anxiety and mixed up emotions slowly clam down inside him. His mind jumped back a few minutes, to that split-second long glance that Arthur had given him just before he'd gone. In it, Merlin had seen something that sparked a little life inside his chest.
Its name was Hope. Merlin wondered whether it would live or die.
A/N: More to come! Hope you enjoyed it. Read and review, please!