Title: In Spite of Everything
Warning: character death
Genre: ANGST, hurt/comfort
Summary: A rewrite of 4.13. What if the episode had ended quite differently? A reveal fic. Warning for character death. Angst galore with a decent helping of hurt/comfort.
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC.
In Spite of Everything
At the sight of Isolde dying, something inside Merlin snaps, and he realizes that he has to do something. He's just so tiredof sitting by and watching the people he loves get hurt. More than anything, he's tired of lying to Arthur. He's tired of the secrets. He's tired of hearing Arthur say that everyone he's ever loved has lied to him and turned on him. And above all that, Merlin wants so desperately for Arthur to know him as he truly is…even if Arthur can't accept him for it.
"I can help."
Merlin walks over to Tristan and Isolde, and without another word he takes Isolde from Tristan's arms.
"What are you doing?" Tristan asks in confusion, a hint of anger in his voice.
"Just trust me," Merlin says. He ignores the look on Tristan's face, and he ignores Arthur when he calls his name. He reaches into himself, taps into his magic, and places his hands over the wound in Isolde's stomach.
He whispers the words of a healing spell, and he hears the murmurs of shock and confusion as his eyes glow gold and his magic pours into Isolde.
It's Arthur. He sounds confused, maybe even a bit scared, but above all he sounds hurt.
Merlin ignores him and continues to chant the spell until Isolde's wound has healed completely, her eyes open, and she gasps, breathing heavily but alive.
Tristan wrenches her from Merlin's grasp and he lets her go. The wound has healed. She was dying, but she wasn't gone. He has saved her.
He watches as Tristan hugs Isolde tight and she hugs him back. She's disoriented, not sure what has happened, and Tristan begins to explain it to her, but Merlin can't hear them anymore.
He turns his gaze to Arthur as he stands.
"How long, Merlin?"Arthur asks again, his voice trembling from a mixture of rage and betrayal, and Merlin can see he's barely keeping it together.
Merlin's voice shakes as he answers, "I was born with magic. It's a part of me. I…"
They stare at each other. Merlin doesn't know what to say, where to start. But he doesn't regret what he did for a second. Not even when he takes a step toward Arthur and Arthur takes a step back.
It's an order, and Merlin can't mistake it for anything else. But he's never been good at following orders, and he takes another step.
Arthur puts up his hand and takes another step back.
"I said don't."
They stand in silence for what feels like years, and Merlin can feel Gwen's eyes on him, can feel Tristan and Isolde watching them both.
When Arthur breaks the silence, all he says is Merlin's name, but Merlin hears so much more. He hears "how could you keep this from me?" and "I thought we were friends" and "how can I ever trust you again?"
Merlin feels his heart break in his chest. But he refuses to regret this. He has just used his magic to save Isolde's life, and that has to count for something. He can't blame Arthur for being mad at him, but he has to at least try and make Arthur see the truth.
"Arthur, you have to know that I-"
"I knew it."
It's not what Merlin expected to hear, and he's shocked into silence.
"Back in the tunnels, when you offered to go back, I just…you seemed so sure of yourself, so sure that what you were doing was right. I thought you were just being noble, but some small part of me knew you had something up your sleeve. I just…I had no idea…Magic. Gods,Merlin."
Arthur goes silent for a minute, lost in thought, and the room is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.
"So all this time," Arthur finally continues. "All this time, since you got to Camelot, since you first started working for me…all this time you've been lying to me."
"Arthur, I…I never meant to hurt you. You have to know I've always had your back, even from the first day. Remember when I saved you from that witch's dagger and your father made me your servant?"
"You used magic?"
"Yes. Ever since then I…I've used magic to help people. I've used magic to save Gwen, Morgana, Gaius…your father...to save you. But I had to hide my magic from your father. Then when you became King I…"
Merlin loses track of time and place, and the words just pour out of him. He's been waiting to say these things for so long, and the more he says, the better he feels.
"I wanted to tell you, Arthur. I wanted to tell you so much. But when Dragoon couldn't save your father, I knew you'd blame magic. And I thought that if I ever told you about my magic that you'd never trust me again. It wasn't until a few days ago that I realized you'd never trust me again if I didn't tell you. If I continued to hide this from you, continued to deceive you when so many others had already done the same, I knew you'd never forgive me."
"After everything I told you," Arthur starts, and Merlin can hear the pain and hurt and betrayal in Arthur's voice and he hates himself for being the cause of it. "After I told you how upset I was that everyone I know has been keeping secrets from me and plotting against me. After everything we've talked about, I thought that you, of all people-"
"Arthur, that's why you had to know! I didn't want to be just another person who was lying to you. I'm tired of the secrets, Arthur. Every day I've kept this from you was torture to me. All this time I've been helping you, and you never realized. I feel like you've never seen the real me and I hate it. I hate that I've had to hide this from you for so long. I hate that you had to find out like this. But I can't keep secrets anymore. I'm sorry, Arthur. I truly am."
They stand in silence again. Then a quiet voice speaks up from behind Merlin.
"You saved her life."
Merlin turns around. He had forgotten that anyone else was in the room with them.
"You saved her life," Tristan repeats, awe and wonder in his voice. "Merlin…there's no way I can ever repay you for this."
Merlin smiles at the man, and he feels that the happiness on Tristan's face is repayment enough.
He turns back to Arthur, and he finds the King looking at Tristan, an unreadable expression on his face.
"You've saved my life, too," Arthur says quietly, and it's not a question because Arthur already knows the answer.
Regardless, Merlin nods as he replies, "More times than I can count, Sire."
Arthur shakes his head, and Merlin sees a million emotions in his friend's eyes. He still looks betrayed and hurt and confused, but a quiet thoughtfulness seems to have overcome him, and Merlin feels a small frail spark of hope light up in his chest.
Everyone turns to stare as Percival runs into the throne room, panting heavily.
"What is it?" Arthur asks gruffly, clearly annoyed at the interruption.
And just like that, Merlin's world falls out from under him.
Arthur doesn't have time to say a word before Merlin is gone. Percival follows Merlin out of the room, and Arthur follows quickly behind. As they run down the corridors, he hears Percival saying something about how Gaius was starved and sick. About how he, Elyan, and Gwaine carried him to his room. About how he's on death's door.
Arthur hears all of this as though from a great distance. He barely feels his feet hitting the floor. Before he knows it they're in Gaius' chambers.
Merlin is standing over Gaius, and Arthur can see straightaway that Gaius isn't breathing.
The moan that rips itself from Merlin's throat threatens to break Arthur in two.
And Arthur can only stand by helplessly as Merlin shows him just how powerful he really is.
Merlin shouts words to the skies, his eyes shining gold, his hands trembling over Gaius' chest. Arthur watches as pure white light seems to radiate off of Merlin and into Gaius. But nothing happens.
Merlin shouts more words, and Arthur feels an energy pulse through the air around him, making the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Merlin's eyes change to gold again but they don't change back.
Arthur shivers as the warmth seems to leave the air and his blood runs cold. The sky outside the window grows dark, and Arthur takes a step back as Merlin screams his last hope to the skies.
Finally, the sun comes out again. Warmth returns to Arthur's body. Merlin's eyes return to their normal brilliant blue. Merlin is panting and shaking.
Gaius is dead.
The cry that escapes Merlin's mouth is primal, full of rage and a sadness so deep that Arthur's heart aches for him.
"No. No, no…NO!"
Merlin flies from the room, and despite everything, despite the lies and the secrets and how positively terrified he is of the power he has just seen, Arthur doesn't think twice before following him.
Arthur has never seen Merlin run so fast, has no idea where he is running to. Arthur can barely keep up.
They run for what feels like forever. As Arthur follows Merlin, he can't help but notice the dark clouds roll in and cover the sun, plunging the once bright day into darkest night. Thunder rolls in the distance. A storm is approaching, faster than any storm should be able to move, and Arthur feels a jolt of terror race through him, and he can't understand it. He can't understand how Merlin can have so much power that Arthur never knew about. He can't reconcile the Merlin he sees now with the Merlin he used to know.
Or thought he knew.
As the sky darkens, Arthur realizes they are headed toward the clearing where he, Merlin, and his knights once faced off against the Great Dragon.
Then he hears Merlin's voice as he's never heard it before. Deep, powerful, he growls words Arthur can't understand, and the power of them makes the ground shake under Arthur's feet, makes the wind whip through the trees. As Merlin breaks through into the clearing, Arthur stops at the tree line. He can't go any farther. And not because he's tired, or because he wants to give Merlin his space. It's because even though he knows this is Merlin – his bumbling, idiotic manservant – he's never seen this side of his best friend before and he's terrified. He's terrified of Merlin.
No, not of Merlin. He's terrified of the power Merlin possesses. The power that has caused the Earth to tremble, the wind to blow, and the sky to grow dark.
The power that has called the Great Dragon back to Albion.
For as the sky opens up and rain begins to fall, the dragon touches down with a crash that shakes the ground, and Arthur, soaked to the bone within seconds, can only stand and watch as Merlin converses with it. He can't hear what is being said over the roar of the wind and the rumbling of thunder and the pounding of the rain.
In the end, he feels more than hears Merlin growl out a spell that sends fire streaming at the dragon, and Arthur watches as the dragon takes off, unharmed. As it flies away, Arthur swears he hears the dragon say, "I'm sorry, young warlock. I truly am."
Lightning flashes in the sky, too close for comfort. And then Merlin turns to him, and a pain unlike anything Arthur has ever felt courses through him. Arthur almost falls to his knees under the weight of it.
And he knows without a doubt that what he's feeling right now is nothing, nothing, compared to what Merlin is feeling.
The rain pours harder, the lightning flashes closer, and Arthur realizes that Merlin's just standing there, out in the open, not moving, like he's given up, and Arthur can't just leave him there. As terrified as he is, he can't just let Merlin stand out there alone.
Arthur walks out into the field, facing the howling wind and driving rain.
He's ten feet from Merlin when he hears the worst sound he has heard all night. It's a sound Arthur knows all too well. It's the sound of a boy screaming out his anger at the world for taking his father away from him.
Lightning strikes a tree not twenty feet away from where they stand, and just before Merlin's knees hit the ground, Arthur reaches out his arms and catches him as he falls.
Merlin drags them down to the ground, damp and soft from the rain. Arthur feels him shaking in his arms and realizes that Merlin is sobbing.
Arthur wraps his arms tighter around Merlin and he doesn't let go. He just holds him close, rocking him gently, as the thunder rumbles off into the distance, the wind dies down, and the rain slows.
Arthur kisses him gently on top of his head, and Merlin trembles harder. Merlin clutches at him, but he can't grab hold of the chainmail, so Arthur grasps one of Merlin's hands tightly in his own.
Arthur feels his heart ache at how lost Merlin sounds, and he doesn't know what to do.
"It's all right, Merlin. I've got you."
All Merlin can say is his name, but Arthur hears so much more. He hears "help me" and "I can't do this alone" and "please don't leave me."
As if Arthur ever could.
Despite everything that has happened, despite everything he has just seen, as Arthur holds his manservant in his arms, he realizes that this is still Merlin. This is still his best friend and the man he cares about more than any other, and he couldn't leave him or send him away even if he wanted to.
"I'm here, Merlin. I'm right here."
And Arthur just holds him as the world as he once knew it falls apart.
AN: I wasn't entirely pleased with the finale. I loved it until the last five minutes when it fell to rubbish. I kept screaming at the computer for Merlin to just say "screw it" and heal Isolde. I knew it wouldn't happen, but I wanted it to so badly. Then I read reviews, and a lot of people seemed to think that Gaius was going to die. I hadn't thought of it myself, and then I realized that Gaius' death would've made one hell of a dramatic story. Eventually, the two ideas kind of wound together in my head and I realized they went well together and this is what came out of that. I have ideas for a sequel, but no promises on that. I have a million other stories brewing in my head.
Reviews are love as always, and Happy Holidays! :-)