Disclaimer: I'm aware that the start of this reads a little like Kitty O's 'Just One, Big, Happy Kingdom', (It's very funny – do read) although our two fics go off in very different directions from that point onwards. Part of this story was already in my head whilst I was reading her fic and I tried not to be too influenced by it but, to be honest, this idea did seem to be the most logical way of getting Merlin where he needed to be.
An Unexpected Job
Set shortly before Series 4, everyone in Camelot is settling into their subtly different roles. Arthur is Regent as Uther continues to struggle to cope with the revelations about Morgana, whilst Gwen and the Knights are becoming used to their new places at Arthur's side.
Merlin, however, is not sure that his life has changed that much at all.
Chapter 1: Merlin & Merlin.
"Ah, Merlin, there you are," said Gaius, as the young man traipsed into the physician's chambers tired, dirty and hungry after another gruelling day running around after Arthur.
"Do I have to?" the young man complained.
"Do you have to, what?"
"Whatever it is you're going to ask me to do."
Gaius gave him an amused smile. "I was just going to say that I'd like you to attend Uther tomorrow morning and then, as I'm rather short of supplies, I need you to go out and collect some more herbs."
"What about Arthur?"
"I've cleared it with him, don't you worry."
"Are you sure, because he probably wasn't paying attention and only half heard what you said, because he's a bit like that at the moment what with dealing with Uther and courting Gwen ..." Merlin raised his eyes the ceiling, softly smiling as he did so. "Never mind all the training he's doing with the Knights and the extra meetings with this uncle of his that's just turned up and ..."
"It's fine, Merlin. I cleared it with him, honestly. You know he's happy for you to spend more time working with me now."
With all the injuries that had occurred as a result of Morgana's takeover, Arthur had been gracious enough to allow Merlin to spend more time with Gaius until things got back to normal. After that, concerned about the old physician's advancing years and heavy work load, the young Regent agreed to allow his servant some extra free time to study medicine and herb law, and Merlin had quickly found that his magical healing skills had started to improve in line with his non magical medical ability.
"Why do you need me to attend Uther tomorrow anyway?" he asked Gaius.
"I've got several urgent calls to make in the morning, and Gwen's been asked to help out with setting up and furnishing the rooms in the rebuilt part of the castle, and so I'm afraid that leaves you to ..."
"Fine, fine," Merlin said with an exaggerated yawn. "Just as long as I can have a bath, supper and sleep tonight, I'm sure I'll survive."
"I'm sure you will, Merlin. Thank you." The young man gave his mentor a curious smile, realising just how rare it was for those two words to be aimed in his direction.
Merlin was up at first light to check on Uther and give the King his medicine, before leaving the castle with his own large herb bag that Gaius had recently gifted him. It didn't look very much like the old man's, but was made of quality leather, with numerous small jars, bags and pouches contained within it along with some small cutting implements and a selection of bandages. Merlin had to admit that he was ridiculously proud of it.
He was now in the small wood close to the castle with just one more ingredient left to find, when he heard a strange sound, almost immediately followed by a familiar dizziness which he instantly recognised as a magical warning. Sensing a presence behind him, he quickly swung around to face the threat.
There in front of him was an old man with long white hair and a beard, ankle length dark red tunic, excited blue eyes, and a worryingly familiar, amused expression on his face.
"Dragoon?" the young man asked incredulously before shaking his head at the absurdity of that observation. "But, you can't be him … I mean, he's me. You're me and I'm … here and so you can't be ..." He shook his head again. "Sorry, who are you?"
"Hello, Merlin. I'm Merlin," the old man replied cheekily. "How are you?"
"Confused?" he responded quickly before looking at the old man rather more closely and noticing some subtle differences from his Dragoon disguise. "So, you're me?"
"Really me. From the future?"
"Ah, I'm glad you worked that one out so quickly, it does saves us an awful lot of time."
"How did you do that?" Merlin suddenly moved from confusion to curiosity. "How do you travel through time?"
"You're magic's fairly strong by now I'm sure but, trust me, this spell is well beyond your abilities at the moment," the old man said in a dismissive tone.
"Right, so … why are you here?"
"I have a job for you."
"A ... job." Merlin looked at the glint in the old man's eyes and instantly recognised it. "I'm not going to like it much, am I?" he guessed.
"Oh, I don't know. I expect like most jobs it'll have it's good points and it bad points."
"Do you not remember the jobs I have now?" Merlin retorted and the old man laughed loudly in response.
"I like how quickly you're coming to terms with all of this. It obviously means that this is the right time, as I thought." He pulled himself up a little taller and Merlin found himself staring, fascinated at having this genuine view of himself in the future. He'd only caught a few glimpses of himself in the mirror as Dragoon, but this man was obviously something else and was acting far more like him, without the silly mannerisms that Merlin deliberately added to ensure that no-one recognised him in that disguise.
"The right time?" Merlin asked.
"I've been exploring the full extend of my powers and finding out all sorts of interesting things about the nature of Time and the universe itself," the old man continued wistfully.
"Sounds fascinating," Merlin replied with a hint of sarcasm colouring his voice, "but I suspect you're not here to tell me all that you've learnt?"
"As if you'd even understand it yet," the old man scoffed with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Thanks," Merlin replied, rather offended.
"Still, seeing that you are me and therefore a genius in the making, you can probably grasp the basics," he continued. Merlin raised his eyes to the sky. "Such as, there isn't just the one Camelot or this one world that you can see around you. There are many different universes, spawned by the numerous different choices that are made throughout history and so, I've been looking at some of the other Camelots and following some of the other Merlins." He dropped his voice down to a conspiratorial whisper. "You honestly wouldn't believe what we get up to in some of them."
"I'm not sure I want to know. Alright … so …?"
"So, I'm going to send you to one of them," the old man announced brightly.
"There's a big problem with the magic in this one Camelot and, as it's so close to our universe, it's threatening to overspill into our world which is obviously not good news at all. So, I need you to go there and fix it." The old man smiled brightly at him.
"Rrright and ... why can't their Merlin do it?"
"Ah, good … that was a good question, you really do understand, well done." The old man looked like a proud father who's child had just learnt to walk.
"And … the answer is …?" Merlin seriously hoped that he wasn't this annoying now, and made a mental note to make certain that he never became so in the future.
"The changes in that world are such that their Merlin will not be able to develop his skills to the point that you have. Which means that he cannot bring magic back to their Camelot as he was destined to. No matter what secrets I tell him, not matter what spells I might teach him, he could not achieve this on his own."
"But I could?"
"Perhaps not entirely on your own, but you do have the resources needed to succeed, yes. The 'you' at this point in time is just young enough to be able to take his place, just experienced enough to be able to achieve the task, and not yet cynical enough to do anything totally stupid once you're there."
"That last bit does not sound very reassuring."
"Next year won't be easy," Old Merlin said with a shrug. "It'll change you."
"Last year didn't change me enough?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes, it changed you just enough for this job, didn't I already say that?" the old man asked in a faintly accusing tone.
"I think you've spent too much time around Kilgharrah," Merlin countered, trying not to dwell on the fact that he was currently arguing with himself.
"Almost certainly. Are you ready?" Old Merlin asked holding up a hand in the same familiar pose that he himself used when he was about to cast a spell.
"No, wait ... you need to tell me more than that."
"No, I really don't."
"The only thing you need to know, is that when your task has been completed, you will instantly return to this place and this point in time, so that you will not be missed by anyone here."
"Oh, and you'll have to call yourself 'Emrys' whilst you there – just to save confusion."
"What? But I really don't think that's ..."
"Don't worry – they won't get the significance of that name there, trust me." The old man started to chant, long complicated sentences, of which Merlin could only grasp or understand the occasional word or two.
"Wait … you can't just … you have to tell me ..."
"Have fun ..." There was a flash of golden light and the older Merlin abruptly disappeared.
Or, to be more accurate, Merlin guessed, it was he that had just been removed from his Camelot and dropped off in exactly the same spot in a different world.
"Wonderful, thanks. You were a great help." He looked around in confusion. "Now what am I supposed to do?"
Everything here looked the same, but something felt very different – Merlin could feel it instantly. He stood where he was, still holding the last herb he'd gathered and closed his eyes, trying to sense what it was that was wrong.
Yes, that was it. Something was very, very wrong here. It felt almost like grief, a loss of something. Something important. He gasped as the most horrifying realisation hit him.
"Forbærne," he commanded, lifting his palm up in front of his face. Nothing. He shook his head at the strange dizziness he was feeling and focused a little harder. There was something deep down inside of him, trapped and desperate, but he was fairly confident he could reach it. He closed his eyes and focused in a way he usually did for his newest, most complicated spells. "Forbærne!" He gasped it – as if it was the hardest enchantment he'd ever cast - and there it was; a small flickering flame on his palm. So weak, so pathetic, that it was hardly worth the effort. The world spun and Merlin ended up on the floor.
"This is why Dragoon sent me here?" he complained, deciding that using that name would make things less confusing for him. "How does he expect me to correct this magical problem of his if there's practically no magic for me to work with in the first place?"
It would certainly help to explain what the old man had said about this world's Merlin not being able to develop his skills here. He pulled a face at the though of what his life would have been like growing up without magic. Would he have any magical ability at all in this world? Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad for his counterpart here – perhaps he wouldn't miss what he'd never had. Despite this, the whole idea was making Merlin feel a bit sick – but perhaps that was because he was already was missing it. The current, tiny little spark of magic deep within him could in no way compensate for the powerful thrill and buzz of energy that he usually felt pulsating through his body.
Merlin stayed in the little wood for quite some time as numerous questions and thoughts flitted in and out of his head, but he knew that he was just delaying the inevitable. He was going to have to head back to the castle in this Camelot, find out what had happened to the magic in their world and try to find a way to fix it.
However, what was worrying him even more than this seemingly impossible task, was the very knowing smirk that he'd seen on old Merlin's face just before he'd disappeared.
Chapter 2: Emrys & Arthur. This Camelot is certainly a different place to his own, but Merlin is having trouble working out exactly what's going on. Then he meets Arthur, Gwen and Morgana and quickly becomes even more confused.
A/N An idea that's been in my head for a while but didn't work initially, mostly because I had a nice sexy little idea and no serious story plot to hang it on. A couple of recent ideas seem to have solved this, and so … here we go with another M rated Mergana fic. We all know there are still not enough of them!
Obviously this is an opening chapter that is supposed to set up more questions than it answers but, as usual, feel free to ask or speculate and I promise to reply. Teaser summaries for the next few chapters are on my PP.