Title: Rarely Pure, Never Simple
Summary: The moment of truth takes Merlin by surprise, but can he gather the courage to say it?
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin, BBC and Shine do, nor do I own much of the dialogue in this story. Lines will not be marked, but if your recognize anything, it comes from season 1, episode 10, The Moment of Truth.
A/N: I'm so terribly sorry! Many excuses could be said, such as school ramping up, a new fandom, and losing the file itself until yesterday...yikes. So here is the final chapter of this fic. Please enjoy!
"Truth is rarely pure, and never simple." Mark Twain
They entered Camelot to the stirring of the crowd. Merlin cringed at the eyes on them, though most were looking at Arthur and Morgana. The murmurings followed them up into the citadel square, until they dismounted by the stables.
"We better go to father, Morgana. He's sure to have heard we're back now."
Morgana nodded, dismounting, and brushing down her trousers. Then she turned to Arthur.
"I can say that it was all my fault, that you were following me to bring me back." Morgana's voice was even, but both Arthur and Merlin shook their heads.
"No, it was my doing that you even came at all." Merlin said.
"And I made my own choice to come." Said Arthur. Gwen stepped forwards as well.
"As did I."
Merlin frowned. "No one should take the blame but me."
Arthur shook his head firmly. "You will not be punished for going to visit your mother. Nor will you Guinevere, for accompanying a friend. It was I and Morgana who were disobeying the king."
"We shall have to bear the consequences." Morgana finished,
Merlin didn't like it, and he could tell that Gwen didn't either. He opened his mouth to protest, but Arthur cut him off.
"No, Merlin. It's alright."
Merlin sighed, rubbing his brow. It didn't sit easily on him, other people taking punishments or suffering because of him. "You wouldn't be in trouble if it weren't for me." He muttered.
Morgana laid a hand on his shoulder, and waited until he looked her in the eye.
"Merlin, whatever Uther does to us, it will be worth it." Her voice was earnest. Merlin blinked, but before he could respond, Morgana strode off, looking as regal in her travel wore tunic and trousers as she ever did in her fine dresses. Arthur also placed a hand on his shoulder, but said nothing, following after Morgana.
Gwen stood beside Merlin. She turned, and put a hand out, like the others had done, though her hand slid down his arm, and entwined their fingers together.
"Are you going to be alright?" She asked, her voice gentle. Merlin looked at her, and saw such caring there he was hard pressed not to break down in her arms right then. He swallowed hard.
"Yeah," Merlin rasped. "I will be." He squeezed her hand, before letting go.
"I should go see Gaius." Merlin said, turning to the horses, and grabbing both his and Arthur's bags, leaving the horses to the stable boys. Gwen watched him go, but he did not look back to see the look on her face.
The steps to Gaius' chambers had never seemed so steep, and it was a long while before he made it to the door, pushing it open just as always, and dropping the bags. He'd take Arthur his things later.
Gaius started up, turning towards the door. A smile lit his face when he saw who it was.
"Merlin!" Gaius came forwards, arms out, and Merlin nearly fell into them. Emotions he'd held back through the trip suddenly poured out in the warm embrace, and tears filled his eyes. He squeezed tighter as he felt Gaius pulling away, and a sob escaped him.
"Merlin?" Gaius asked, concern in his voice. Merlin couldn't answer, so Gaius simply wrapped his arms around his charge tighter, a hand coming up to cup his hair. Merlin buried his face in Gaius' rough clad shoulder, sobbing again. Gaius waited it out, letting Merlin cry against him until he was simply sniffling, tears having run their course.
Merlin pulled away, wiping at his face with his sleeve. "Sorry," He muttered, embarrassed. Gaius grabbed his arm to prevent him from turning away.
"Merlin, what's the matter? What's happened?"
Merlin bowed his head. "My friend Will is dead."
Gaius didn't know Will, but his face softened in sympathy. "Oh, Merlin,"
"It's fine." Merlin cut off his remark, moving past him, and going up into his room. Gaius stood below, and watched him leave.
Morgana ignored the guards who tried to stop her, and Arthur following after her. If Uther wanted to see her, he could see her now. She swung open the big doors of the throne room, and strode in, Arthur seconds behind her. Uther stood from his throne, his face a mask without expression and watched them come in. They stopped as one before the throne and waited.
Morgana kept her chin high; she had no shame in what she had done, and she wanted Uther to know it. Arthur stood tall beside her, also not looking ashamed, though he did look a bit more respectful. Their positions brought back memories of getting into trouble as children; they had always been making mischief when they were younger. She hid a smile.
Uther walked forwards until he was in front of the two of them, and his glare was powerful.
"Five days." Uther growled. "Five days you vanish into thin air. What do have to say for yourselves? Where were you?"
Arthur spoke up. "I'm sorry that we caused you worry, Father, but we simply went for a ride around the kingdom."
"A ride?" Uther echoed, his voice incredulous. Morgana stepped forwards.
"Yes, I wanted to see the countryside, and Arthur offered to take me," Morgana met Arthur's eyes. "And keep me safe."
Arthur nodded decisively. "Exactly. And as you can see, we're both safe."
"Why in heaven's name didn't you just say so. I would have authorized a trip." Uther said.
Morgana shrugged. "It was a rather spur of the moment decision..."
Uther still looked angry, but his worry was tempered by their lies.
"You know I cannot let this go unpunished. The prince and the king's ward cannot just vanish without permission."
"Of course not, Father." Arthur said. Uther looked over his shoulder, and snapped to the guards.
"Guards, take Prince Arthur and Lady Morgana to their respective chambers, where they are to be confined for as long as I see fit."
The guards came forwards, and took hold of Morgana's arms, and Arthur's. Uther turned to go back to the throne, but he looked back once.
"In the future, do not keep such things from me."
Morgana was much more suited to confinement that Arthur was. According to Gwen, she was determined to show Uther that his punishments meant nothing to her, and she spent her days sewing, arraigning flowers and making paper crafts with Gwen. They passed their days with laughter, for in truth it was more fun than Gwen's normal duties.
Arthur on the other hand...Arthur was a man of action, and being contained in his rooms was one of the worst possible punishments for him, at least in his opinion. Merlin came to Arthur's chambers on the first day, bag in hand, to find two guards outside the doors. They let him pass, and he entered Arthur's chambers with a confused look on his face.
"Why are there guards outside your door?"
Arthur was sitting in a chair at the table, scratching a pattern into the woodwork with the tip of a meat knife. Merlin winced at how much polishing it would take to rub that out.
"I'm being punished." Arthur said, matter of factually. Merlin's confusion cleared.
"Ah, right." Merlin set down the bag, but stood still. "Sorry," He muttered, and Arthur huffed, pushing away from the table to stride past him to the window.
"Nothing to be sorry for." He said brusquely, stopping to gaze out into the courtyard. "It was my choice, my punishment."
Merlin nodded, and lifted the bag again. He started unpacking quietly, and once the last item was put away, or piled in his arms for a wash, Merlin turned back to Arthur.
"Do you want me to bring you anything?"
Arthur glanced over, eyes roaming over him. Merlin was sure he looked tired, he felt like he could sink to the floor right that moment and not move for hours. His eyes were dry, itchy and probably blood shot. Something in his appearance, in any case, caused Arthur's eyes to soften.
"No, go get some rest." Arthur turned back to the window quickly. Merlin sighed, and nodded.
Merlin moved slowly towards the door, glancing back to see Arthur moving towards his desk and picking up a book from a shelf. Merlin suppressed any amusement at Prince Arthur, great knight of Camelot deigning to read a book for an evening, or even having one in his room, and shut the door softly. His bed was sounding quite nice to him about now. He really hadn't enjoyed sleeping on the floor again.
Of course, the next few days were not as pleasant, and the novelty of being confined to his chambers quickly wore off for Arthur, even as Morgana took pleasure in proving to Uther that his punishments were ineffective. Merlin ran round for Arthur, bringing him things, and hoping that each requested item would be enough to hold the man's attentions. When that failed, Arthur fell back to bickering with Merlin, and there were some genuine laughs then.
After almost a week, Uther needed his crown prince back. They were let out, and life returned to normal. Arthur treated Merlin just the same as always. However, Merlin remembered the words of his dead friend, and the look in Arthur's eyes when his magic nearly came out. There was a new wall between them, one not from propriety, but was only of Merlin's making. It confused Arthur, to have that sudden distance, but with all things that confused him, Arthur ignored it, hoping it would go away on its own. Merlin was still himself, and there were times when he and Arthur acted the best of friends. But then Merlin had to remind himself that he was "just Arthur's servant."
Perhaps someday things would change, but for now it could not be, and Merlin was happy with that.
Really, he was.