Author's Note: GUH! It's been ridiculously long since I started this little ficlet… But you know, procrastination, writers block and all that other wonderful stuff got in the way. *sigh* But here it is! Uh, I suppose you could read this on its own, although you might be confused at some parts. I suggest you read the prequel, The Woes of Art, then come back and read this one Feel free to review both, I would greatly appreciate it! Also, i plan to make this a two-shot in case anyone's interested… I've already started part 2, so I hope it'll be finished soon :p Anyways, on to the story!
Disclaimer: Merlin does not, in any shape or form, belong to me, regardless of how I wish it so.
It's been a little more than a year and a half since Arthur had be crowned king of Camelot.
After being the head monarch for a few months, the huge responsibility of it all had started taking its toll on Arthur. All of his knights and royal members of the court came to him now for advice, adding unbelievable amounts of stress on his young shoulders. He was expected to deal with at least twenty different issues every single day. Bandits were spotted in the Northern Woods, some of the outlying villages complaining of food shortages, a few people in the lower town were dying from a quick spreading disease… the lists went on. He hardly had any time to himself anymore; always running around like a chicken without a head, trying to appease the court, maintaining the people's respect, keeping issues with other kingdoms at a minimal while still training with his knights. It was an absolutely gruelling schedule. By the time the day was done, Arthur would more or less collapse on his large four poster bed, clothes and all, and fall straight asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Lately, he'd also had to think about what to do about his whole 'heir' situation. He knew getting married was inevitable, so he'd proposed to Gwen, whom he still had feelings for. She was the only other person he could imagine spending the rest of his life with. She had accepted it a fit of happiness and euphoria. She, of course, did not know that she was his second choice.
They'd wed that winter, a few days before Yule. The ceremony was absolutely stunning; half the court was in tears, including himself at one point. Gwen cried with him, almost mad with happiness, and was blissfully unaware that her husband's tears were not of joy.
As the now married king of Camelot, Arthur had more duties than ever before. He was glad to be so busy really. From the moment he got up to the second he fell asleep he was completely immersed in his kingly obligations. If he was always busy, that meant he had no time to think about Merl-… damn. He had come so close too.
For a few weeks after he took off during Arthur's coronation ceremony, the blonde was completely miserable and only a few people knew why. He had pined, sobbed, raged, screamed, threw terrible temper tantrums, and broke things. Lots and lots of things. But the truth of the matter was that Merlin still wasn't there.
He had just left. Right when Arthur had needed him most.
The young Pendragon had just been crowned king of Camelot a few days after his father passed away, and was still shaky due to both events. He'd needed Merlin to be there; to ground him, to reassure him it would all be fine, like he always did. Right before Arthur entered the throne room, Merlin fussed over his clothes as per usual. No cryptic words for Arthur as a warning that he would be leaving somewhere and anticipate not returning. Arthur could've recognized his not-so-subtle signals, but there had been nothing. No warning whatsoever. He just... left. Leaving an ambiguous letter to Arthur behind saying that he just had to leave immediately (the reason, he did not say) and that he would one day return and tell Arthur everything. To say that he was puzzled was an extreme understatement.
In the few moments that followed, Arthur tumbled headlong into a huge spectrum of emotions, hitting him so hard simultaneously he felt he would collapse. Dismay. Disbelief. Fear. Rage. Grief. And finally, betrayal. He just stood there for a few minutes, body trembling, those feelings threatening to swell up and implode him from the inside out. Instead, he took a deep breath, and went back to the throne room to celebrate with his subjects. Arthur put on a good show, but his heart wasn't really in it. For the rest of the night, in between dozens of conversations with his well-wishers, he found his eyes flitting across the room rapidly, searching in vain for the man Arthur knew he would never find.
Sighing deeply, he turned again to stare outside his bedroom window that overlooked into the courtyard. He had no idea why; he had been inexplicably drawn there for the past few days. What he was looking for, he had no idea. He just watched. And waited.
After a few minutes of deafening silence, the door to his chambers banged open violently to reveal a panting Leon. Arthur whipped around, wide-eyed.
"What in the-"
"I'm sorry my lord, there's no time to explain!" Sir Leon wheezed, "You must come outside, sire. Now."
A pretty servant girl rushed hurriedly down the street, careful not to spill the bucket of water she had just retrieved from the well. It was just an ordinary day for her; she had planned to wash some of her dresses today, seeing as how there wasn't much going on at the castle. After Morgana had betrayed them, Arthur had had been kind enough to give her, of all people, the prestigious position of being in charge of the majority of the maidservants. He had seen how poor she was one day whilst making his rounds, and showed her an extreme kindness. All her life she had always favoured the Crowned Prince over his father, and this incident had only increased her feelings toward the young Pendragon. Her life was just perfect now.
As she made her way back to her hut, she noticed some commotion by the front gate. A handful of guards were surrounding a few hooded figures on tall horses, and some on foot. There were quite a few villagers milling around them as well.
"Excuse me, but what's going on?" she asked one of the passing guards, and gave him her best pleading, innocent look. He just stared at her suspiciously; but then gave her a resigned sigh. She exhaled in relief.
The guard turned his head from side to side to make sure no one was eavesdropping before leaning close to her. "The Druids have come to see the king." Her eyes widened. Druids? She had heard rumors that King Arthur was planning to lift the ban against magic, but it was still so soon! What on earth were they doing here?
"Thank you," she said, barely above a whisper. The guard nodded and walked off. She turned her head towards the gate nervously. More villagers had started to surround the newcomers, and a few had stopped in the middle of the street to stare.
Suddenly, the crowd parted and the Druids came through; those on horses went first, the ones on foot trailed behind, and some of the guards of Camelot marched alongside the party. The villagers on the street stopped what they were doing and moved to either side of the road to watch the procession go by. Hushed murmurs and whispers filled the air as they drew closer. The girl saw the Druids' cloaks were different shades of blue, purple and green, and they all had their hoods up in such a fashion where their faces weren't visible. Then she saw the one leading the procession. He had a jet black cloak on, hood hiding his face, and was atop a huge black stallion. The other Druids were constantly looking at this darker figure, admiration and reverence evident in every glance. As the party approached them, the girl felt a tingling sensation crawl over skin. It wasn't exactly unpleasant; it sent goose bumps down her spine and tickled her senses. Some of the other villagers looked wildly around them too and at each other; perhaps seeking an answer to whatever it was that they were feeling. It seemed to radiate from the Druids. Magic, the young girl thought wistfully.
The procession continued through the lower town and up towards the castle. Most of the other villagers had decided to follow the group, excited to see what was going to happen. When they finally reached the courtyard, the Druids halted. Silence rung through the castle yard before finally, the dark cloaked leader dismounted, and the rest quickly followed. Gasps and whispers filled the air as the villagers gushed to each other excitedly about the newcomers.
They started making their way towards the front entrance to the castle, wary guards in their wake, when suddenly the huge doors burst open and thudded loudly against the castle wall. King Arthur clattered down the steps with a red-faced Leon close behind. He marched towards the Druids, who had stopped as soon as the king had appeared. Some of them even seemed to cower behind their tall black cloaked leader.
Arthur skidded to a stop in front of them. His breathing was heavy and his eyes were open as wide as saucers. Even Leon, his right hand man, wouldn't approach him now.
Arthur was astounded; his throat felt as dry as the Perilous Lands itself. Why were they here? How did they know he wouldn't slaughter them as his father would have?
Because, Arthur Pendragon, your heart would not allow you to.
He jumped, looking around wildly. His eyes darted to one of the green cloaked Druids standing beside their leader. The man slowly removed his hood, revealing a tanned, weather worn face, warm crinkles around his eyes and shoulder length grey hair. He smiled at the king and laughed. The soft sound reminded the blonde of the whispers of a running creek. The blonde felt a spark of recognition; it was the Druid that had given us the Cup of Life all that those years ago.
Arthur open and closed his mouth like a fish before stuttering, "Ho- how did you do that?"
The man laughed again, this time joined by a few more from his party. "Speech is not the only way we communicate, my lord," he spoke aloud this time, earning himself a few confused glances from the villagers. He smiled once more, looking at Arthur amusedly as if he were a small child learning how to walk. Arthur flushed with embarrassment, thinking that he had never received such a patronizing stare, even from his father.
He cleared his throat, attempting to regain his composure in front of his subjects. "Why have you come to Camelot?" His voice rang out clearly through the courtyard with more confidence and authority than the king possessed at that moment. The man stared at him for a few moments, as if trying to see inside of him. Arthur shifted uncomfortably.
"We have come to you in your hour of need," he said with an air of finality. The villagers began whispering again amongst each other.
Arthur sneered haughtily. "And what makes you think I need your help?" The Druids' face darkened.
"Because, Arthur," the figure in black snorted. Arthur felt his heart drop into his stomach. His world spun and his breathing quickened rapidly, causing black spots to swirl into his view. He knew that voice. The Druid's leader swung gracefully from his horse and carefully lowered his hood, revealing a head of raven black hair, ivory skin, sharp cheekbones, and piercing blue eyes. About a dozen loud gasps rippled through the crowd. "You always need my help." And then he smiled; it seemed to brighten the whole universe, dazzling Arthur in the process.
Then courtyard went completely silent. Gaius could've dropped one of his tiny glass vials onto the cobblestone and every single person there would've heard it with the utmost clarity. No one spoke, no one breathed, no one moved; all eyes were transfixed on the monarch and his former servant.
Merlin beamed, radiance seeming to ooze out of his very soul. Arthur just stared, refusing to believe what his eyes were showing him. He trembled slightly.
Finally, Arthur…, Merlin thought, eagerness coursing through his veins, filling his entire being with happiness and love. Our destinies can come true now. I can protect him, be there for him. Be his companion, advisor, sorcerer, friend... we'll rule together, we'll-
Merlin's thoughts were violently scattered when Arthur's fist connected with his jaw. He reeled backward, stunned, spots appearing in his vision. A few villagers cried out in dismay, their hands flying up to cover their mouths in horror.
The Druids erupted into chaos; a few came forward to catch Merlin as he fell over, disoriented. More rushed to the front and held their hands out menacingly towards Arthur and his guards. The king was now the epitome of rage; blue eyes wide, jaw clenching and unclenching, body shaking with fury. His knights responded in kind, unsheathing their swords and holding them out threateningly. The on looking villagers were hysteric, crying out in terror and shouting in outrage.
"No- no, stop," Merlin groggily said, his split lip muffling his words. "It's s'alright, stop it." The Druids regarded him with questioning glances before lowering their hands reluctantly. Arthur's men didn't put down their swords. The warlock staggered to his feet and locked eyes with Arthur again. There was such pain, such raw anger and betrayal in the king's azure orbs. Merlin flinched.
For the first time in his life, Arthur Pendragon had nothing to say. He just scowled fiercely at Merlin, wanting to tell him with his eyes how much he'd hurt him. How angry he was at himself for allowing him to feel hurt. How much he'd missed him. How much he hated him. Wanting to hurt Merlin, like he had hurt Arthur. His hands balled up into fists at his sides, trembling still.
Merlin didn't know how long they stared at each other. Second after second, minute after minute, the two regarded each other. Arthur seethed silently. Merlin waited, attempting to express all his feelings with his eyes, willing Arthur to understand. The warlock could practically feel the waves of hostility rolling in waves off of the blonde king.
Finally, Arthur broke eye contact and abruptly turned, heading back inside the castle. He felt his people's stunned silence follow him as he left. His knights looked at him warily, and wordlessly parted for him to pass. Walking at a terse pace, he headed for his throne room, hundreds of emotions bouncing around inside his head. So occupied was he in his thoughts that he nearly ran into his wife once he rounded the corner.
"Arthur! What-?" Her question died off as soon as she saw his face. Gwen's expression turned from happy to concern in an instant.
"Arthur, what's happened?"
The king drew in a shaky breath and fixed her with his steel blue gaze. "Merlin's back."
Gwen let out a soft gasp as her brown eyes widened in shock. Before she could say anything, he marched past her and into his throne room, closing the door behind him. Arthur wandered in a daze to his Father's- his throne, and sagged against the strong golden frame. Merlin… is a Druid? No, it can't be, don't be stupid. But why else would he be with them? And why did he act as their… leader? Merlin? A leader? A rabbit would be better suited to lead those people... Why didn't he ever come back…
His thoughts were interrupted as a knock softly rapped against the heavy door, and then the tell-tale sound of the door creaking open.
"Arthur?" The king wished that voice didn't make his heart feel like it was going to explode.
He gave a low growl and his shoulders tensed.
Merlin tried again. "Arthur?" The warlock stepped warily inside, seeing his king leaning on the throne, his back towards Merlin.
"Won't you say anything? Please Arthur, say something, anything, I don't care, just please-"
"You want me to say something?" Arthur interrupted brashly; Merlin jumped at his hostile tone. The blonde whirled around, catching the sight of his former manservant, dressed regally in black, with a pleading, heart-breaking expression on his angular face, split lip glistening red. Arthur refused to be distracted.
"How about, Hey Merlin, why the fuck did you leave?" The sorcerer flinched. Arthur advanced on the raven-haired man with long, elegant strides. "Why didn't you tell me where you were going? On my fucking coronation ceremony you bloody twat, and you just had to go? I ne-." Arthur stopped himself. His vision blurred as angry tears pricked at his eyes; he shook his head fiercely, willing them to go away.
"I had a reason Arthur. I had to leave…" Merlin trailed off, voice growing quiet.
"You had to leave!" Arthur finally exploded, face turning red with anger. "YOU DID NOT HAVE MY PERMISSION TO FUCKING LEAVE!" Shaking his head again, he began pacing. Back and forth, back and forth. Merlin watched him anxiously, worrying at his lower lip.
"And what was so bloody important that you had to just- abandon me on the day I needed you the most?" He bit his tongue, realizing what he had just said. Merlin's eyebrows furrowed in hurt, cheeks beginning to turn a light shade of pink.
"And then you just show up like nothing even happened over a year later? I haven't heard one fucking word from you this whole time! You could've been dead for all I cared!" He ran a hand viciously through his hair, snarling in anger.
"Oh shut UP, you bloody prat!" Merlin growled. Arthur's head darted up in shock, having never heard such a furious tone uttered by the warlock before.
The next thing Arthur knew, Merlin's hand shot up towards the ceiling and his eyes flashed a brilliant gold. A jet of flame burst forth from Merlin's palm and flew towards the roof. The fire morphed into the shape of a dragon before his very eyes as it glided around the throne room. Then, the beast opened its flaming maw and let out an ear splitting roar.
Arthur let out a cry of surprise before ducking down and covering his ears with his hands. When he felt that the noise had subsided, he cautiously lowered his arms, fixing Merlin with a wide-eyed stare.
"You… You're a sorcerer," Arthur mumbled, dumbstruck.
"How observant you are sire." Merlin's tone was quite solemn and serious, despite the intended sarcasm.
The young Pendragon's eyes were bulging out of his head, as his mouth opened and closed soundlessly. "You're. A. Fucking. SORCEROR!" Arthur screamed the last word, his outrage echoing against the walls of the throne room. His worst fears had been realized. He had hoped and prayed to whatever gods were up there that there was a different reason why Merlin was with the Druids. And now that he knew the truth… he wasn't sure how to deal with it.
"I know this is a huge shock to you Arthur…" The look of pure betrayal and incredulity in Arthur's expression was enough to make Merlin backtrack.
"Okay, okay, I know you have every right to be angry and hurt, but at least hear me out." Damn those stupid, gorgeous doe eyes. Arthur's own eyes narrowed dangerously and his lips pressed into a thin line. Taking this as affirmation, Merlin stumbled forward into the speech he'd been working on since he'd left.
"I've always had magic." Arthur visibly flinched at that accursed word. Merlin now focused his attention to the floor, deciding it was better than seeing the hatred written across his king's chiselled features.
"Ever since I was born, I've had it. It was always getting me into trouble as a child. That's why my mother eventually sent me here, to be safer, which is ironic because if anything I was in even more danger here. But I came, and that night when that witch was impersonating Lady Helen and she tried to kill you, I used my magic to slow down time and save your life."
Arthur gave a disbelieving snort.
"It's true. And yes, I rather disliked you at that point in time, but I decided to save your life anyway. As a result, I became your servant. Tell me this Arthur; if I was a powerful, evil sorcerer, why would I remain in your service when I could easily eradicate you and your entire kingdom with a snap of my fingers? Or just conjure myself up some wealth and power? I could've done it, you know."
The blonde stiffened, and turned his head away from Merlin. He appeared indifferent to the warlock's statement, but Merlin could see that the king was considering this information.
"After that I heard a voice in my head, calling to me. It turned out to be the Great Dragon under the castle. So I went to see him, and he told me of my destiny. Of our destiny." Arthur's head shot up at this and stared at Merlin with an unreadable expression.
"He said that one day, you would reunite the lands of Albion, and I would help you. I would protect you with my gifts, and together we would bring magic and prosperity to Camelot. And that's all I've ever done Arthur, is protect you. I swear."
"How do I know that?" Arthur snapped, eyes blazing. He advanced on Merlin, the warlock doing everything in his power to not flinch away from Arthur's fury.
"All you've ever done since I've known you is lie." He pointed an accusing finger hard into Merlin's chest. "For all I know, you could be playing me right now."
"I am not lying!" Merlin exclaimed heatedly, shoving Arthur's arm away from him. "Actually, all I've ever done since I met you was save your life, you stupid prat. Who was it that told you about Valiant's shield, hmm? Or about that thing that was polluting Camelot's water supply? Did you really think that the fire from your torch just happened to flare up randomly and kill it? And that griffin; that magical creature that couldn't be harmed by any normal weapons. Guess who killed it? With magic? God, I've saved your life so many times I've lost count, and you've never even noticed. Anything magical that's happened in Camelot since I've gotten here, nine times out of ten I was the one that made it right. And did I ever get any thanks? No."
Merlin was fuming now; the words he'd been longing to say finally pouring in an uncontrollably fast torrent.
"And Balinor. You remember him right? The Dragonlord that was murdered before he could reach Camelot? He was my da. My fucking father, Arthur." The blonde gasped, blue eyes widening a fraction more. Merlin ignored him.
"That makes me the only Dragonlord in existence. So you can probably guess that no, mighty Arthur Pendragon, you did not kill that dragon. I made it go away. If it wasn't for me, it would've destroyed the whole of Camelot. And then, we have the umpteenth number of times Morgana had tried to kill you and your father. I, once again, thwarted her every. Single. Time. Do you know how easy my life would've been if I just let her kill Uther? Believe me, it wasn't a foreign thought to me."
"But I still saved his life. Because of you, Arthur. I knew how angry and hurt you would be if she had managed to murder him, and I did not want that. Because I care about you, you stupid prick. Why can't you just see that I would never hurt you?"
Merlin finally looked up at his friend, and when he did, he couldn't help but utter a soft gasp.
Arthur's handsome face was red and puffy, with tear tracks trailing down his defined jawline. Merlin had never seen him like this before. The king grabbed fistfuls of his own blonde hair, and let out a strangled cry.
"Why?" he then whispered, hating how pathetic he sounded. The warlock's face softened as he reached out towards his friend. "Oh, Arthur…"
"Don't touch me," the king hissed, jumping backwards. Merlin froze where he was, feeling like he'd just been punched in the gut.
"Just…" Arthur exhaled sharply before pinching the bridge of his nose with his forefingers. "Get out."
Merlin gasped. "No! No, please Arthur, don't send me away! The whole reason why I left was because I went to train with the Druids! I wanted to protect you better; I needed them to teach me more about my magic so that I could protect you with everything I had! Don't you see? I only did it for you! Please don't be like this-"
At this, Arthur whirled around, seeing red. "Don't be like this?" he asked in a low voice, eyes glittering dangerously. The warlock fought the urge to cringe.
"Merlin," he growled. "Leave. Now. Before I do something I regret." His blue orbs danced with that furious promise.
"Arthur!" Merlin pleaded, feeling his eyes start to swim. His heart raced frantically in his chest. This can't be happening.
"I said LEAVE!" Arthur roared, swinging his fist clumsily in Merlin's direction. Even though the raven haired man had anticipated this, he still couldn't get out of the way in time. It was a hard blow to the face, and Merlin stumbled backward from the force of it. With one last look of hurt and anguish, he turned and fled the throne room.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, Arthur felt his knees give out as he fell onto the floor in a heap, crying and sobbing like a child. Pull yourself together you stupid fool! Don't let him do this to you. Stop being so weak!
Suddenly, images and sounds flooded his mind, replaying a scene that happened years ago:
"It's what I tell all my young knights," Arthur had said, putting a comforting hand on Merlin's shoulder. The warlock looked up at him; his cerulean eyes practically bled out the deep sadness he was trying so desperately to cover up. "No man is worth your tears."
Merlin attempted a half-hearted smile. "You're certainly not."
Arthur only wept harder.
After Merlin and Arthur's… disagreement, Arthur had gone down to where the Druids were staying in the lower town, and stiffly told them they could stay for a few days until they had restocked their supplies. They gushed their thanks to him as he managed a thin-lipped smile, before stalking off towards the castle.
He hadn't seen Merlin since their falling out, and honestly, he did not care, thank you very much. It's not like he had been having erotic, carnal dreams about his former manservant since the whole "painting incident". Which was certainly not the case. Whatsoever.
He entered his castle at a fast clip; paying no heed to the wary looks the servants were giving him, practically jumping so as to not get in their king's way.
A bloody sorcerer. Arthur shook his head as he walked, fuming. How could he have not told me? It's not like I was going to tell my father about him. Hell, I fucking lo-
He stopped himself. You idiot. He probably did that to you on purpose, just to drive you insane. Made you have feelings for him…
As soon as the thought crossed his mind, he mentally kicked himself. He knew, he knew, that Merlin would never have done such a thing. He was a terrible liar for one thing. Not only that, but also because Arthur knew enough of Merlin to know that it just wasn't in him. No, his feelings were of their own making.
But most of all, it… stung. So much, that Merlin hadn't trusted him with something like that. Something so monumentally huge… He thought they were closer than that. He considered- well, he once considered Merlin to be one of his closest friends… perhaps even more than that at one point. But not anymore; Merlin had made that much clear.
He burst into his chambers, still immersed in his thoughts, to find his wife sitting on the window sill. She was reading a book, a serene smile playing at her soft features. She looked up at his rather loud entry.
"Arthur? What's the matter?" she asked, seeing his troubled expression. Gwen got up from her perch and made her way towards her husband, wrapping her arms around his neck.
He smiled sadly, and gave her a chaste kiss. "Nothing you should concern yourself with, darling." He pressed his lips to hers again.
After a few moments, she pulled away with a small sigh. "It's Merlin, isn't it?" She felt her king stiffen.
"Oh Arthur," she cooed, brushing his blonde fringe out of his eyes. "I know this is hard for you, but surely you believe he is still the same person? He's still our Merlin."
The young Pendragon shook his head sharply, feeling emotion well in his chest. He grabbed her hands and brought them to his face, kissing them with reverence. And when he looked up at her to gaze into her brown eyes, she saw that unmistakeable, hooded desire. She felt warmth pool in her stomach.
That night, they made love; Merlin's name a ghost on Arthur's lips.
Already three days had passed, and the Druids still resided in Camelot. Arthur had had some time to cool down and think things over; he discovered he didn't have it in him to kick them out. He secretly enjoyed their presence. On many occasions when he was taking his daily stroll around the city, he saw the children of Camelot playing games with the Druid's young ones. They were laughing and squealing as they chased each other around the lower town. Arthur felt his heart warm; children were so pure. They did not know that they were completely different from each other, and yet they didn't seem to care. They just enjoyed each other's company. There was nothing more to it. Arthur found his thoughts drifting towards Merlin, for the umpteenth time that day. Why can't it be that way for us?
His stubborn side growled, blazing up inside of him like a fiery inferno. Because. Because he betrayed me.
After a while he found himself overlooking the entire lower town, perched on the rim of the castle wall. He didn't have to look for long before he spotted Merlin's tall, lanky frame talking amongst some of the Druid leaders. He cursed at the way his heart leapt in his chest.
He couldn't hear what they were saying, obviously because he was too far away, but he guessed they were talking about something serious judging by their expressions. Even from this distance he could see Merlin's perfect ebony brows pull together as he thought, his teeth worrying at his lower lip.
Arthur remembered the first time he and Merlin had met. It wasn't the most fantastical first impression… but he knew right from the start Merlin was special. The way he just butted into his training session and pretty much told Arthurto bugger off, like he was an ordinary peasant. Even after Merlin knew he was Uther's son, his defiance and attitude towards him had not changed. If anything, he became even more insolent. But then, whenever he felt like he was going to rip Merlin's head off, he would flash Arthur that cheeky, innocent grin. How could he be angry at that smile? His smile.
How different Merlin looked now, Arthur mused to himself. His slim figure was shrouded in that rich, black cloak, and he stood with such an air of confidence and pride; the likes of which Arthur had never seen in him before. He didn't look so… nervous anymore. He always used to be so skittish; jumping at everything and just being clumsy in general. Now he carried himself with a quiet dignity, like he knew he was important but didn't impose it on others. If he didn't know better, he would've thought Merlin was a Prince. Well, he is, in his own right…
Arthur heaved a mighty sigh, and pulled his knees up to his chest. What the hell was he going to do?
Merlin marched through the castle, feeling apprehension rising from deep within him. He hadn't really been surprised when a servant had rushed over to him and informed him that the king wanted to see him immediately in his chambers. He knew Arthur would want to speak to him eventually, but that didn't stop the anxiety from eating away at his heart.
He paused as he reached the door to the blonde's chambers. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, cursing the way his magic spiraled restlessly inside of him whenever Arthur was near.
Giving a mighty exhale, he knocked once. Twice. A third time. Finally, he heard Arthur's drawl from the inside. "Enter."
He opened the door cautiously, to see the king leaning against the window sill, facing away from him. Merlin closed the door behind him, and waited, heart beating in his throat.
After what seemed like an eternity, Arthur finally turned around towards him. "Why?" he whispered, his hurt making itself known in those cerulean eyes. The blonde looked so…. vulnerable.
Merlin flinched. No one ever said this was going to be easy.
He took a deep breath; the young Pendragon waited. "I had to, Arthur. Please believe me when I tell you that I've wanted to tell you for so long, but..." He gave an exasperated sigh, dragging his fingers through his raven black hair.
"I just… I knew your hatred of magic, and I didn't… want you to… hate me." Merlin made a face, averting his stare to the ground as he felt a blush creep up his neck. "I did not want you to choose between protecting me, and being a loyal son. I didn't want any of it. So I just… kept it a secret. Please try and understand why I did what I did Arthur. Words can't describe how sorry I am."
The king was silent. Merlin decided to peek up at him from under his lashes; Arthur's expression was stony, his lips pursed in thought.
The warlock gulped. This is it. The future of our destiny will be determined with whatever Arthur chooses.
The blonde sighed deeply, before moving to stand right in front of Merlin. Two pairs of eyes clashed; sapphire and cobalt. King and sorcerer. Master and servant.
Finally, Arthur spoke. "How could you think Merlin, for one moment, that I would've turned you over to my father?" His tone was gentle, but his eyes burned with hurt and pain.
Merlin gave a small shrug as he hung his head, crestfallen. "I don't know," he whispered, voice catching in his throat.
"Merlin," the blonde murmured tenderly as he tilted Merlin's chin up with his finger. The raven haired man held his breath, staring at his king with wide blue eyes.
"I never would have turned you in. Not for anything in this world." And then he pulled Merlin to him, wrapping his arms around his lithe frame and burying his head in the crook of the warlock's neck. Merlin let out a shaky laugh of relief before hugging himself to Arthur just as tightly, snuggling into his broad shoulder.
"I know, Arthur, I know," Merlin chanted, tears of happiness flowing down his alabaster cheeks. Overcome with emotion, he grabbed fistfuls of Arthur's tunic and began to sob in earnest.
The king made to sooth him, stroking his ebony hair softly, making gentle shushing sounds.
"You have no idea how long I've waited for this day Arthur," Merlin breathed against his neck, eliciting a delicate shiver from the young Pendragon. "I was so scared you were going to hate me, or never want to see me again. Or worse, banish me from Camelot." Merlin hiccupped a few times, before letting out a breathless laugh.
Arthur pulled back, and took Merlin's tear-stained face in his hands. "I could never hate you Merlin," he whispered.
Merlin's eyes widened; Arthur marveled at the swirling mixture of a dark, enchanting cobalt and the tell-tale golden shimmer. His gaze traveled down to Merlin's mouth; full, pink, and slightly parted. Arthur was vaguely aware of the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears as he felt himself being pulled forward. They were so close now, so close. He could feel the warlock's breath mingle with his own, could taste him ever so slightly.
And then, Arthur felt their mouths connect; Merlin stiffened. Arthur let out a sigh of contentment as he reached down and rested his hands on Merlin's hips. After a moment, he realised that the warlock wasn't responding, he was just standing there. With a growl he pushed the warlock's mouth open eagerly, tongue lapping at Merlin's own.
Then suddenly, as if the raven-haired man had been burned, he leapt backwards. The weight Arthur was leaning on suddenly disappeared and he caught himself just as he was about to fall forward. He looked up at Merlin, startled. The warlock gazed at him, a pained expression on his angular face.
"Oh, no," Arthur said, barely above a whisper. "Not again. Please Merlin, I beg of you. Don't do this to me again." Merlin decided it was easier to stare at his shoes instead of the king's heartbroken eyes.
"We can't Arthur. You know that."
"We, - I, - ARGH!" The king uttered an incomprehensible sound and turned around angrily, hands clawing through his blonde hair in frustration.
Merlin groaned. "Come on, Arthur! You know it's hard for me too. You know we just… can't."
At this, Arthur spun on his heel and advanced on Merlin, blue eyes glinting with passion.
"I am the king. I can do bloody well whatever I please."
"You know that's not what I meant Arthur," Merlin said stubbornly, chin raised in defiance.
"Merlin, do you have any idea how long I've wanted you?" The warlock gulped and shook his head meekly, blue eyes widening.
"Let's just say, a very, very, long time. And I can only imagine how long you've wanted me for-"
"Always," Merlin blurted out, biting his lip the second he did. You're not making this any easier for yourself! a voice in his head cried.
Something darkened in Arthur's eyes as he continued to prowl forward, his movements rather predatory. Merlin found himself backing up.
"See?" Arthur purred, "You want this as much as I do." Merlin felt a shiver run through him at that tone, when suddenly he felt the wall behind him. He turned his head sharply toward Arthur, and air of panic in his eyes. The blonde smirked, knowing he was trapped.
Finally Arthur stood right in front of him so that their chests were touching. He stared straight into the warlock's eyes, letting out a huff of satisfaction at the unmistakable desire shimmering under the surface of that swirling blue.
"So then," Arthur breathed, gently wedging one his legs between Merlin's. He smiled as the warlock gasped. "Why would you deny yourself me?" He leaned forward and nuzzled Merlin's neck as the slighter male gave a rather loud whimper. Arthur exhaled sharply as he felt himself harden at the sound. He nibbled the shell of Merlin's ear and ground their hips together. The warlock made another delicious noise before digging his nails into Arthur's shoulders.
"Merlin," the young Pendragon moaned reverently. He moved to kiss him, when his weight was abruptly gone. Arthur opened his eyes; Merlin just… vanished. He looked around him wildly, letting out a snarl of frustration.
"We can't Arthur." The blonde spun around to see Merlin standing at the other side of the room.
"Arthur," the warlock sounded tired, "we can never be. You are a married man in case you haven't forgotten. You also need an heir. And since Gwen seems to be your woman of choice-"
Within seconds Arthur strode over to him and grasped his wrist in an iron hold, azure eyes burning.
"I only married her because you left me." Merlin's mouth fell open; both of theirs did if truth be told. Arthur was a blunt man, but this…
"I- I love her Merlin, but… not like you. Never like you." He looked up into Merlin's eyes, and the warlock nearly broke down at the look of such utter devotion. How many times had he dreamed and fantasized about Arthur gazing at him like that?
The King took a deep breath, willing his self-assurance not to fail him. "I couldn't stop thinking about you after you left. I felt so… broken." Merlin flinched.
"I would not have married her, Gwen, if you stayed. I… my heart is yours, Merlin. It always has been and it always will be." Arthur's voice was shaky, but he held his head high with confidence. He had never laid himself bare like this before. He felt so… naked.
But by now Merlin was shaking his head rapidly, attempting to pull his wrist out of Arthur's grip, tears forming in in his eyes. Arthur felt his stomach drop to the floor.
"I… can't. I'm sorry." With that, Merlin fled the room, and Arthur did nothing to stop him.