The sun streamed in through the open window, accompanied by Merlin's cheerful tones. Far too cheerful for that time in the morning. This probably meant he was late again.
"Rise and shine!"
This wasn't right.
The last thing Arthur remembered was fighting an evil sorcerer that had somehow managed to gain access to his chambers. And yet the small cuts he'd received in the fight had vanished, the skin below smooth and tanned.
He almost would have believed that no fight had occurred if he hadn't looked at his bed post and seen the small nicks in the wood that could only have been made by a sword.
And he remembered making those marks in the fight.
What was going on?
Why would Merlin – who had probably walked in to find the room like it had been through a battle (which it kind of had) – clean up and then act like nothing was wrong?
He could half remember something – it was hazy and foggy and probably imagined but it was there. And what he saw almost scared him. What he saw was Merlin as a sorcerer. A powerful sorcerer.
But that could be right – he'd taken a blow to the head (several actually, not that his pride would let him admit to that) and he couldn't be sure of what he was seeing.
But it would explain several things – Merlin's habit of knowing what was going on and who was plotting with whom and disappearing at the crucial moments and everything turning out fine. A couple of times were normal. The number of times Merlin achieved it was downright suspicious.
Only him actually being a confirmed sorcerer would lead to his arrest and execution. Arthur wasn't too fond of that particular idea. He decided he'd try to avoid that particular outcome at all costs. Decent manservant's were so hard to find (not that Merlin was a decent manservant but he had that way of being wise when you needed him that was convenient to have around. Sometimes he was even decently funny.)
Merlin was still far too cheery – even if he hadn't been attacked by a load of evil sorcerers.
"How long have I been out?"
"You've been asleep for about eight and a half hours, Sire."
"And how long have I been out?"
"From the sorcerer that broke into my room. And," he coughed awkwardly, "hit me around the head."
He hated admitting when he was beaten.
"The sorcerer that was in here. And that you stopped." On a spur of the moment he had decided to voice his suspicions. This could backfire horribly and embarrassingly.
Merlin paled and tensed.
So he'd been right.
Merlin had stopped the sorcerer.
This also meant Merlin was a sorcerer.
Rationalising it in his head, it didn't seem quite so far-fetched anymore.
"Really Sire? And what would give you that idea?"
"I'm sure I have no idea. He must have just looked very much like you, this sorcerer that saved me."
Arthur noticed how Merlin stopped attempting to protest that any sorcerer had attacked him, further proving his suspicions.
"Very much like you. I suppose it was convenient that I didn't see him very well."
"Or else I'd have to have him arrested."
Merlin seemed very insistent to leave this particular conversation topic behind.
"Suppose ... hypothetically ... this sorcerer was you? That would be very bad."
Merlin gulped. "Very, very bad."
"And I'd have to find another servant. And he'd probably be even worse than you."
"I suppose you would."
"And if hypothetically you were a sorcerer why would you come to Camelot?"
"Hypothetically, I could be sent here to control my power."
Merlin walked towards the bed, which Arthur had now gotten out of, and began to make it, hands twitching nervously.
"And what would you be doing with that power whilst in Camelot?"
"I could be using it to save you. After all you run into so much trouble – all those sorcerers wanting to get revenge and bandits in the woods and even dragons. And it would be very bad if you died."
"It could change the future."
Arthur chose to take his manservant literally. By now he was dressed.
"Well if you were talked about in a load of say ... prophecies as being a King who did a load of good things for everyone, magical or otherwise, dying would be pretty bad. The druids or magical people who want those good things to happen might send someone to keep you safe from all the people that don't."
"So dying, hypothetically, would be even worse than I imagined."
"I suppose I should try not to die then." Arthur gave a small sardonic smile.
"Dying would be bad." Merlin nodded his agreement.
"So this sorcerer-"
Merlin cut him off, "And if, hypothetically he wasn't a normal sorcerer?"
"Not a normal sorcerer?"
"What if he was born with magic?"
Arthur had never heard of this happening before. This changed things – how many people had died because of how they were born? "And was he born with magic?"
"Hypothetically he could be a warlock instead of a sorcerer. Warlocks are born with their powers."
"And is that common?"
"It could be. But most warlocks gain their powers at later ages."
"And, hypothetically, when would this warlock who looks like you have gained his powers?"
"A few days after birth."
"He must have been a nightmare for his mother."
"He must have been."
Both Arthur and Merlin had other places they needed to be but neither were willing to give up the conversation. Well it wasn't that important...
"And so this hypothetical sorcerer would have been saving my life?"
"Probably hundreds of times, Sire. Probably lost count in the first year."
"And so ... wouldn't it be kind of suicidal to go to the King about this sorcerer, if he wasn't hypothetical?"
"I suppose it would be. And it sounds like this sorcerer would be a decent person using magic for good. Maybe even a friend. So I suppose I wouldn't have to tell my father. I might even help out with the hiding a bit. Hypothetically, it would be a bit like stealing from his wine stores."
Merlin grinned. "And, how, hypothetically, would you know that?"
"I don't know. It was hypothetical." Arthur grinned back.
"Now, I have a meeting with my father. I want you to clean my amour; clean my windows, wash my shirts, and muck out the stables." With one last grin at Merlin, who was now looking rather disgruntled (well he had saved Arthur's life an uncountable number of times. That's why he hadn't added polish his floors to the list) he left the room.
Both Merlin and Arthur never spoke of that discussion again, not until long after Arthur was crowned King and magic was unbanned, not even for all of the things he saw out of the corner of his eye (Merlin with golden eyes, Merlin talking to dragon's e.t.c. When you knew what you were looking for, Merlin wasn't subtle at all).
There was no need.
And Merlin knew that Arthur knew.
(The official reveal was much less stressful and a lot more staged.)