Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and all that that entails. I am not the BBC. But if I was… ohhh, the things I would do….
Title: Hypothetically Speaking….
Rating: T, because sometimes the occasional swear-word sneaks past the Filter-Monkeys who check for this kind of thing. Don't hate them, they're running low on bananas!
Summary: Arthur and Merlin are hunting when they stumble across a rather strange clearing. Inside that clearing is Kilgharrah, who has a few things to say, much to Merlin's horror.
A/N: This is what happens when I get overtired, overstressed, overworked and wonder how Arthur could POSSIBLY be so stupid as to not know that Merlin is a warlock. Maybe he just has brain damage. All that time unconscious can't be good for him.
A/N2: Set shortly after And I'm Not A Drunk, although reading that is not necessary. It'll make this funnier, but it's not necessary. If you haven't read it, this is set between Seasons 3 and 4.
Merlin hated hunting. Granted, there were many things he hated these days. Council meetings, for one. Although, those were alright if Gwaine was there, and had been drinking. He also hated Mordred and Morgana, and anyone who wanted to kill Arthur. There were quite a lot of people like that lately; it was getting difficult to keep track of who, exactly, he hated.
But that wasn't the point.
The point was, hunting was terrible. Merlin didn't like it at all. True, hunting was necessary if you wanted to eat meat with your evening meal, and it was also required if you wanted furs or other assorted… things. But that didn't mean Merlin had to like it! Killing was, in general, not his favorite thing. He had to do it far too often for his taste as it was; killing a poor defenseless deer or pheasant or something just didn't strike him as fun.
Arthur, on the other hand, seemed to get some kind of sadistic pleasure out of hunting down cute furry animals and shooting them through the head with a crossbow bolt.
Although Merlin could be wrong about the 'sadism' thing. Maybe.
Shaking his head at his own wandering thoughts, Merlin followed Arthur up yet another steep hill.
"Haven't you shot enough defenseless animals yet?" Merlin called, suppressing a smirk as Arthur shot him a scowl over his shoulder.
"No, Merlin, I haven't, thank you," Arthur snapped, and then paused. "Do you… do you hear something breathing?"
Merlin's heart skipped a beat, and then started thudding double-time. Every single time someone said something like that, things very quickly went straight to hell. No exceptions. "Uh, no," he stuttered, hoping against hope that denying it would make it go away.
Arthur rolled his eyes at Merlin, and said, "You may be an idiot, but you must hear that…."
Merlin did, in fact, hear the breathing-noise. He heard it quite clearly. But, again, denying the truth might just make the problem go away.
"Nope, I don't hear anything," he shook his head vigorously. "Maybe it's just… maybe it's your stomach? We haven't eaten in a while, and you know how you get when you haven't had enough to eat."
"No, Merlin, it's not my stomach," Arthur glared at his servant. "Are you insane? Come on," and without further ado, he headed farther up the hill towards the sound that was clearly not the breathing of some large, dangerous, probably-magical creature that would likely try to kill them both.
"Clot-pole," Merlin muttered under his breath, and followed the annoying prat.
Mere moments later, they reached what seemed to be the top of the hill; or, at least, it was the top of the hill now. From what Merlin could tell, this particular hill had once been a great deal taller, but had been flattened and – he gulped nervously – burned bare by some very large animal. Said very large animal was somewhere nearby, breathing quite loudly. A few dozen yards away were some charred stumps, a large collection of grayish rocks, and some fairly deep furrows in the earth that looked like claw marks.
"Arthur, we should probably go back," Merlin said, fighting off panic. There was only one creature he could think of that was big enough, and burn-y enough, to have changed the hill this much. And if he was right, there were going to be an awful lot of awkward questions that he really didn't want to answer.
"We can't," Arthur said, hand latching onto the hilt of his sword. "Whatever did this could be a threat to Camelot. I have to investigate."
"Or, or," Merlin said hastily, "or you could go back to Camelot, and get some of the Knights together, and come back with a larger force, so that you could beat it more easily."
Arthur hesitated a moment, and then shook his head, "No, we should investigate it now. Find out what it is, and if it's really a threat, before we go drag other people into this."
Before Merlin could protest further, Arthur continued walking, sword freed from its sheath.
"Dollop-head," Merlin said through gritted teeth.
"I heard that," Arthur retorted, glaring at Merlin over his shoulder.
"You were meant to," Merlin retorted.
"You should show proper respect."
"I never have before, why should I start now?"
"Because I told you to!"
"Again, never have before, why should it mean anything to me now?"
"DO YOU MIND?" A loud, irritated voice interrupted their discussion. "I would like to sleep!"
Arthur was instantly on guard, sword at the ready, eyes darting about trying to find the source of the voice. Merlin, meanwhile was panicking. He knew that voice. He knew that damned voice, and he was going to beat the owner of it over the head with a very heavy rock in a moment.
The ground beneath their feet rumbled, and the pile of stones to their left shifted, and then rose, revealing itself to be none other than Kilgharrah, the Great Dragon.
Merlin closed his eyes for just a moment, bracing himself for the inevitable yelling and threats and unpleasantness that Arthur was bound to start spewing.
Arthur, for his part, was staring at the dragon that he would have sworn on his life that he had killed. That Merlin told him he had killed. That he didn't remember killing. But Merlin had said….
"You lied to me!" he yelled, pointing his sword at Merlin. "You said I killed it!"
"'It'?" the Dragon said pointedly. "I beg your pardon, did you just refer to me as an 'it'?"
"You said!" Arthur repeated, glaring furiously at his servant. "You told me that I killed the Dragon! And now it's here! Talking! Why is the Dragon talking, Merlin?"
"I am here, Arthur Pendragon, because there are things you need to hear," Kilgharrah said importantly. Before he could continue, however, Arthur pointed his sword at him.
"I will get to you in a minute," he snarled, and then rounded on Merlin again. "You lied!"
"Well… I mean… I thought you killed it?" Merlin said lamely, backing up a few paces.
"You thought I killed the Dragon?" Arthur repeated incredulously. "You thought? How can you…. Either I killed it or I didn't! And obviously, you were wrong! What is the matter with you, Merlin?"
"Look, it isn't my fault!" Merlin snapped, getting tired of Arthur's yelling. "I was wrong, but it doesn't matter! The Dragon went away! It all worked out in the end!"
"No it didn't!" Arthur yelled back. "Because it's not dead! It's right here! And now I'm going to kill it! For real this time!"
With that, Arthur rounded on the Dragon.
Now, during this exchange between Merlin and Arthur, Kilgharrah had been getting exceedingly… well, the most accurate term would be 'miffed', but applying 'miffed' to a Dragon seems a bit… undignified. Still, he was, if anything, miffed. Here he was, the last of his kind, a truly impressive specimen, and these two insignificant humans were ignoring him in favor of some ridiculous, pointless argument!
The point was, the Dragon was miffed at being ignored. When Arthur turned on him, he upgraded from 'miffed' to 'peeved'.
"Now see here, you ridiculous human," Kilgharrah huffed irritably. "There is a reason you two found your way here today, and – put that sword down!"
Arthur was not listening to the Dragon. He was trying to ignore the fact that the Dragon could talk, because it was a Thing, not a Person. People could talk, Things couldn't. You could kill Things with impunity, because Things were usually evil. If the Dragon was a Person, he would have to give it the benefit of the doubt and listen to it before he decided to kill it. It was the decent thing to do, really. But he wasn't interested in being decent just now. He was interested in killing this Thing that he thought he had already killed!
"Arthur! Stop it!" Merlin yelled, trying to stop the Prince from attacking the Dragon without getting in the way of the sword that the Prince was waving around. "You need to stop this!"
"Why?" Arthur snarled. "It's a creature of magic, it's evil, I have to kill it!"
"I am not evil, young Pendragon!" the Dragon snapped, slapping the sword out of Arthur's hand and across the clearing with a wave of his arm. "And you will listen to me!"
"Uh, or, you know, we could just, sort of, go away?" Merlin suggested, glaring furiously at the Dragon. "We could not talk. You could fly away. Far away. And we could never talk. Ever."
Arthur glared after his vanished sword, and then turned his glower on the Dragon and Merlin alike. "Fine. Talk. But when you're done, if I don't like what you've said, I'm getting my sword back and trying again."
"Fair enough," the Dragon said genially. "As I was saying, the two of you found your way here today for a reason."
"No, we were just hunting," Merlin interrupted.
The Dragon shot him a gimlet stare of his own. "Perhaps, but it was not chance that made you choose this direction to hunt. The time has come; the two halves must be made whole."
"What?" Arthur furrowed his brow. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Merlin glared at the Dragon. He knew very well what that weasely bastard meant. That blasted business with the 'two sides of the same coin' again. "Clearly, he's trying to confuse you into forgetting to kill him," he said to Arthur.
"No, actually, I'm not," the Dragon narrowed his eyes. "As I said, the time has come. There are still many dangers, many threats to Camelot and all of Albion. They must be faced, and vanquished. But this cannot be done in the current circumstances. The truth must come out."
"Or," Merlin interrupted again. "Or we could save that for some other time. Or never."
Arthur shot Merlin a sidelong glance. "What are you…. You're both mad. I'm getting my sword."
"There is someone close to you with a very great secret, Arthur Pendragon," the Dragon said.
Arthur, who had indeed started to turn to look for his sword, froze in place. Merlin wished he could set Kilgharrah on fire with just a snap of his fingers.
"What do you mean?" Arthur asked, turning back to scowl at the Dragon. "Who has a secret?"
"Someone whom you trust with impunity; the person who is closest to you," Kilgharrah said. "This secret must come out. But you must try to understand, when it does. Do not react as your father would. Think, and try to understand. For the world will be a dark and cold place if you do not, and all of Albion will fall under shadow."
For a moment, there was a chill in the air at the Dragon's words. Then Arthur said, "Is it that Percival is in love with Gwaine? Because I know about that already. I'm fine with it, as long as it doesn't get in the way of training."
Kilgharrah stared at Arthur. "….No. No, that's not it. Why would that possibly be what I'm talking about?"
"Oh," Arthur frowned in thought. "Well then I don't know what it could possibly be."
The Dragon stared at the Prince. "Really. You don't know."
"No," Arthur shook his head, and then turned to Merlin. "Do you?"
"Uh…" Merlin stared back at him, mind racing.
"No, of course not," Arthur frowned again, and turned back to the Dragon. "Tell me who it is."
Kilgharrah did not respond, still staring at Arthur in disbelief. "You really have no idea?"
"No!" Arthur snapped, thoroughly annoyed by this time. "I don't know who or what this secret is. I order you to tell me!"
"Oh no," the Dragon shook his enormous head. "No, this was never my secret to tell. I can only… manipulate things so that the telling becomes necessary."
Merlin glared at the Dragon, completely furious. Arthur persisted in looking confused and angry, but stayed silent.
"The Once and Future King," Kilgharrah muttered to himself, shaking his head as he stared at Arthur incredulously. "This is the hope of salvation in Albion?"
"Hey!" Arthur protested. "Give me a straight answer, you stupid lizard!"
The Dragon shook his head again, and said, "I shall leave you two here, to discuss what this great secret could possibly be," Kilgharrah prepared to take off, and then paused, glancing at Arthur. "And, if I may suggest, ask Merlin again. I believe he may know a bit more than he's telling."
With that, the Dragon leapt into the sky, and vanished in a manner of moments.
Merlin wished he could do the same.
Arthur stared after the Dragon for a moment, and then spun on his heel to face Merlin. "What was he talking about? What do you know?"
Merlin shook his head hastily. "I think he was just making it up. You know dragons, they… lie…."
Raising an eyebrow, Arthur said skeptically, "Dragons lie? That's the best you've got? Merlin, you know something. I can tell. I've told you before, you're an open book. Come on, who's this secret about? Is it Gwaine? Lancelot? Who?"
Merlin threw his hands up, and said, "What, you automatically assume it's Gwaine or Lancelot? It could be Gwen, or, or Gaius, or Percival, or me, or–"
"You?" Arthur laughed. "Merlin, you don't have any secrets. You couldn't. I mean, you're just an open book. You can't lie to save your life. You couldn't possibly."
The callous dismissal in Arthur's voice was the final straw that broke the camel's back for Merlin. The stress and panic of meeting Kilgharrah and almost having his secret exposed, and then Arthur acting like he was nothing…. Sometimes things can just be too much, even for a warlock.
"I don't have any secrets? I don't have any secrets?" Merlin exploded, flinging his arms in the air and gesticulating wildly at Arthur, who took an involuntary step back. "You have no idea how many secrets I have, you inconsiderate prat! The things I haven't told you! The bloody uncountable number of times I saved your worthless, ungrateful hide! The things I do for you, and for Camelot, and I don't have any secrets?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Arthur demanded. "You haven't saved my life! Well, maybe once or twice, but that's not 'uncountable'!"
"I save your stupid arse every damn day!" Merlin yelled. "A sorceress tries to kill you; I save you, multiple times. Your father marries a Troll; I come up with a way to get rid of it. A griffin attacks; I enchant Lancelot's weapons. Sophia tries to kill you so she can go back to Avalon; I kill her and her father and pull you out of the lake. That… that Bastet attacks, and I… I get her away from Camelot, after you stabbed her. That damn bracelet almost kills you on that stupid quest for the Fisher King's Trident; I drive the wyverns away and get the bracelet off you and, again, save your life. When your father thinks you and Gwen have a… a thing, and he doesn't approve, I pretend to be Dragoon the Great to keep her safe and take the blame. But do I ever get any credit? Do I ever get any damn thanks? No. No, I just keep going along, pretending to be Merlin the Servant, who has no secrets and never lies, and never does anything illegal, because if I was who I really am, your damn father would chop my bloody head off! And you'd help him!"
Merlin ground to a halt, panting in rage. Then he glanced at Arthur's face, and realized what, exactly, he had just said.
"So," Arthur said slowly, staring at his servant with narrowed eyes, "You… enchanted Lancelot's weapons. And drove the wyverns away. And pretended to be Dragoon."
"In order to do all of that," Arthur said inexorably, "You would have to be magic."
"That's ridiculous," Merlin scoffed.
"Yes, it would be," Arthur nodded, still with his eyes fixed on Merlin. "Except for that last bit that you said. About how if you were ever who you really are, my father would execute you."
There was a brief pause, and then Arthur continued, "My father would execute you if you had magic, Merlin."
"Do you have magic, Merlin?"
Merlin stared at Arthur, his friend. Well, they had never actually said they were friends, but Merlin knew, in his heart of hearts, that that was what they were. Friends. But now his friend was looking at him with no expression at all, eyes completely blank. His friend, who was legally bound to kill him for who he was.
"That's… no, of course not," Merlin stammered, taking an involuntary step back. "Why would I have come to Camelot if I had it? It's illegal. I'd be killed."
"True," Arthur nodded again, and took a step forward to match the one Merlin had taken back. "But it would explain a lot."
"If I had magic, you would have to kill me," Merlin said bluntly, eyeing Arthur's sword with trepidation.
A brief look of hurt crossed Arthur's face, quickly replaced by annoyance. "Really, Merlin? You think I would kill you?"
Merlin shook his head. "I think your father's laws say that magic is illegal, and that you honor your father a great deal. I would hope that you wouldn't kill me, in this hypothetical situation."
"Mmm," Arthur shifted his stance thoughtfully. "So, hypothetically speaking, who else knows about this… hypothetical magic you hypothetically have?"
"Hypothetically?" Merlin sighed. "My mother. Gaius. Lancelot. Mordred, which I'm not really thrilled about. Ah, the Druids. Kilgharrah the Dragon, obviously. Gwaine."
"Gwaine?" Arthur interrupted, looking upset. "You hypothetically told Gwaine, but not me?"
"Well, he figured it out! Hypothetically," Merlin protested.
"Well, what about Lancelot?" Arthur scowled.
"He hypothetically saw me enchant the spear that killed the griffin, that once," Merlin scratched the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Um… I think that's it. Nobody else knows. Well, Will knew. And a few other people, but they're… well, they're gone now," Merlin looked at the ground, trying his very best not to think about the friends he had lost.
Arthur stood silently for a moment, and then, with a frown, said, "So, the Dragon. What… what was all that business with the Dragon?"
"Oh," Merlin shrugged a little. "I'm hypothetically the last of the Dragonlords."
"What?" Arthur yelled. "You didn't think that was worth a mention before now? How long have you been a Hypothetical Dragonlord?"
"Since… since Balinor died," Merlin said quietly, refusing to meet Arthur's eyes again. "The, ah, power of a Dragonlord is passed down from… father to son."
Arthur stopped, taken aback. "He was… he was your father?"
Merlin nodded wordlessly.
"Oh," Arthur shifted uncomfortably, clearly remembering his 'no man is worth your tears' platitude that had been so very out of place. "Ah. Sorry, Merlin. I'm sorry that he, uh. Well."
"S'alright," Merlin smiled weakly. "Doesn't matter now. Besides, we're speaking hypothetically, remember?"
"Right," Arthur nodded.
"So…" Merlin bit his lip nervously. "Hypothetically speaking, would you be angry if I was a warlock?"
Arthur sighed. "Hypothetically speaking. I would be upset, yes. But not because you're a warlock," the prince frowned. "I've known you for a very long time, Merlin. I trust you more than… well, more than I trust most people. If this warlock-business were true, you would have been lying to me for years. I can understand why you lied at first; I probably would have thrown you in prison and had you executed. And I understand why you didn't hypothetically tell me afterwards; confessing a lie that big would be difficult. But," he shook his head angrily. "But I thought you trusted me, at least. I thought I knew you, and… after everything with Morgana, and how she hid things like this from me, I just don't know if I can trust you the way I did before."
Merlin nodded. "I understand, Arthur. But, I didn't want to lie to you," he said hastily. "When I first got to Camelot, someone was executed for using magic. That was literally one of the first things I saw here. You can understand why I was hypothetically nervous about telling you, can't you?"
Arthur huffed a dry laugh. "Yes, I suppose."
"So…" Merlin said nervously, "If it was true, you wouldn't kill me?"
Arthur scoffed, "No. As long as you, hypothetically, anyway, didn't do anything to attract anyone else's attention. Particularly my father's."
"Oh, no, no I definitely won't," Merlin shook his head quickly. "Believe me, I've been very careful to hypothetically hide it from him."
"Mmm. But not from Gwaine or Lancelot?" Arthur raised an eyebrow.
"Lancelot saw me hypothetically doing magic, and Gwaine hypothetically figured it out," Merlin protested. "I think he's hypothetically known since we went after the Fisher King. The little man on the bridge, who hypothetically went on about Strength, Courage and Magic?"
"Ahh… yes, that makes a lot more sense now," Arthur nodded pensively. "But, in the future, you're going to have to hypothetically be a lot more careful. If anybody else hypothetically found out, there might not be anything I could hypothetically do to help you."
Merlin grinned wryly. "I'll be hypothetically careful, don't worry."
"Good," Arthur nodded once, and then turned to stare after the Dragon. "So, that Dragon isn't going to go back to Camelot and burn it to the ground, is it?"
"Oh, no," Merlin shook his head. "Don't worry, he's not allowed to come back unless I call him. We must be just outside the borders, or he wouldn't have been here anyway."
"Ah. Right," Arthur shot Merlin a strange look. "Sorry, this is just… it's a bit odd, knowing how much power you have."
Merlin grinned cheekily. But before he could say anything else, Arthur suddenly jerked his head up, and snapped, "Wait, you were Dragoon the Great? That old man who said he enchanted me and Gwen into… that was you?"
"Uh, well," Merlin said quickly, "before you get angry, I didn't actually do anything. Morgana framed Gwen, and then I just took her place and pretended it was me, but then I got stuck as an old man, because sometimes magic is tricky and more difficult than I expect, hypothetically, anyway, and then it just got confusing and everything sort of… well… fell apart?"
Arthur stared at Merlin, and said, "You were that old man? I nearly killed you!"
"Well, yeah. I suppose," Merlin shrugged. "It happens. The almost-getting-killed bit, I mean. Not so much the you-almost-killing-me bit. It's not fun, but I'm used to it."
"Ah," Arthur nodded again. "Well. That's… that's unpleasant."
Merlin grinned cheerfully. "As I said, I'm used to it."
There was a pause for a few moments, and then Arthur sighed heavily, and said, "Well. Back to Camelot, then?"
Merlin nodded cheerfully, and the two set off for home.
Not ten minutes later, Arthur asked, "Is your hypothetical magic how you've managed to get all your chores done? Because now that I hypothetically know about it, I'm going to give you a lot more if that's the case. You'll get so much more done this way!"
A/N: The middle/end bit of this got a fair bit more serious than I meant it to, and the whole thing was a hell of a lot longer than I originally planned. And I'm not too thrilled with the ending. But endings are a bitch. Let me know if you enjoyed this! Also, I used some form of the word 'hypothetical' about 30 times. Sweet.
A/N2: If enough people like this, I'll write more in this universe. Where it's pre-season-4 (Lancelot!) and Gwaine and Arthur also know about Merlin, and they all go on crazy random adventures and do magic. And if so, the next installment would have someone, not sure who yet, getting turned into a bunny rabbit. I'm thinking it'll be Arthur.