This has taken obnoxiously long. I wrote half of this months ago, and I'm just finishing it now. I get emails now and again about a new favorite or alert and it reminds me and I want to thank you guys so much for the encouragement. Basically, I have a new story idea I want to run with, but feel horribly guilty leaving this one unfinished. So, thus, finishing. If you still bother to read this after so many months of it going ignored, then bravo. I seriously applaud and thank you.
"Well I'll be damned. I need a drink. Anyone have ale?"
Normally, Gwaine's out of place comments might illicit a groan or a chuckle from at least someone, but not this time. In fact, he was the only one in the room who didn't look uncomfortable.
Merlin fled the room, going to the back entrance for servants, the opposite direction that Arthur had gone.
Gwaine rose out of his seat with a small pout on his face, saying, "I'll take that as a no." He looked around at the people he saw everyday around Camelot. His fellow knights, his comrades, looked unsure. Gaius wouldn't give Merlin any problems, he was sure, but the noblemen? Council members? Gwaine wasn't sure. On many days they didn't like him very much, and he hadn't just outed himself as a magic user.
"I know it's a bit much. But I hope you'll all remember that Merlin, that sorcerer as some of you may be thinking, has been our friend for years. He has a good heart, and is one of the best people I've ever known. And let me remind you that he also just saved possibly all of our lives, risking everything. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check on my friend." With a confident air as if challenging anyone to try and stop him, Gwaine left the room, following the way Merlin had gone.
Merlin was in a panic. Arthur hadn't arrested him. That had to be a good thing right? Maybe he just needed time to think about it. Maybe he was ready. Maybe...
Maybe he should take his leave.
Merlin wasn't so sure now that Arthur was ready. What had to be done was done, but now... Maybe he should leave.
Merlin headed towards his chambers, wondering when he should depart. Probably as soon as possible. He would say his goodbyes quickly, perhaps even try to apologize to Arthur.
Gwaine came running up to him, interrupting his thoughts.
"Merlin! Merlin! Blimey, I've been calling your name down the halls!"
Gwaine stepped in front of Merlin, making him stop in his path.
"I'm not mad you know."
Merlin looked at his friend, a bit confused. It was as if the words would not compute.
"About the magic. I'm not mad. Maybe I'm a little upset about being left out of the loop, but I've been around a bit. I know Camelot might be a great place but they also might get a few things wrong. I've seen magic do good things, places where it wasn't feared. And what you did back there... Merlin mate, that was amazing!" Gwaine wore a full blown smile, bringing at least a small grin to Merlin's worried face. "If anyone gives you trouble, if the royal princess has it in his idiotic skull that what you've done is wrong, well, they'll get more than just a few words from me!"
"Leaving? You can't leave now -"
"Yes, now." Merlin interrupted. "I still hope for a better future, but I'm not sure if today is that day."
"Merlin... please, think about it a bit more."
"... I'm scared. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't"
Gwaine grabbed Merlin's shoulder in a friendly gesture and looked him straight in the eye. "You'd be crazy not to be. But now isn't the time to run."
With another small smile, Merlin nodded, and continued on his way, with a different destination in mind.
"Before you go," Gwaine called after him, "Do you think I could still get that ale?" He looked pointedly at Merlin with a small raising of his eyebrows.
Merlin rolled his eyes, looked around, and gestured for Gwaine's flask. Gwaine handed it over, and with words that Gwaine couldn't quite make out, Merlin's eyes flashed molten gold.
As Merlin walked away, Gwaine took a drink from his flask, and by the gods if it wasn't the best damn ale he'd ever had.
Merlin knocked tentatively on the door, and hearing a voice quietly call out, "enter," went inside Arthur's chambers.
There stood the king, his friend, staring out the window with his usual pensive stance when something or other was troubling him. Arthur didn't even look up; he knew the knock, the footsteps. He had lived side by this side for years. He had thought he knew everything there was to know about Merlin.
He felt like such a fool.
"All those things you told Morgana, were they all true?" He barely spoke above a whisper, breaking the silence. "A sorcerer, defending Camelot?"
Still not looking, Arthur continued. "I don't know what to think. I should be throwing you into the cells. I should be lighting the pyre. But it doesn't... feel right."
Merlin kept silent. He dared not break the king's thoughts now.
"If you were truly helping Camelot, why did you not come forward?" Finally, Arthur turned his head and faced the man before him. "Why did you stay silent?" His voice steadily began to raise. "Did you not want credit? Why not? Sounds like an awful lot of work Merlin! You watched us kill druids, peaceful people, for years! We have hunted down your kind without mercy! Why Merlin? Explain to me, because I can't seem to understand!" Arthur looked ready to burst, exploding with rage.
"Why did you lie to me?!"
Arthur turned away with his last exclamation, fuming. It seemed, as always, the truth had come out. Arthur knew this was why he was the most confused, felt the most betrayed. The years and countless lies that must have been told to him... it hurt. More than he wanted to admit.
Merlin looked sadly at Arthur. How to explain. How do you explain being taught to hide since birth?
Merlin began as gently as possible. "Arthur, have you ever not wanted to be King? To not be born a prince?"
Arthur looked at Merlin again, confused. "Why?"
"I know there were times in the past. Not often though, because you feel a great sense of duty to your people. None the less, it was something that you were born into. It is not something you could choose."
Merlin started to play with a small flame in his hand, ignoring Arthur's small flinch, despite the great works of magic he had seen such a short time ago.
"This was not something I could choose. It was something I was born into. I was born to be Emrys. To live a life of service from the shadows, until the time was right. Until you were ready. I do not seek praise or reward. I seek peace." With a small smile, Merlin extinguished the flame. "And I hope that is something we have in common."
Arthur looked ready to say something, but Merlin continued. "And, I am still Merlin. I am the same idiot you've always known, just not quite so idiotic. I've hated lying, but I had no choice. Please believe me when I say that you are still, and always have been, my closest friend."
It would take time. Trust had been broken. That times time, so much time, to rebuild. But it was possible. As Arthur looked at the sorcerer, he stopped seeing Emrys and Merlin as separate. He dared to think it was true. Maybe, just maybe, the future held promise.
"Well we can't have you running off then now can we?" Arthur quipped. "If you do as much as you claim, Camelot wouldn't last a week without you. But I want a full report, and for now you are on close watch. Understood?"
With as large a smile as he dared, Merlin gave a small nod.
"Good. Now that little flame of yours is a measly little parlor trick now isn't it? That all you've got clotpole?"
"Hey! That's my word!" Merlin responded indignantly.
With a pointed look from Arthur, Merlin realized, that perhaps, that wasn't the most important problem for the time being. He thought for a second, then whispered the perfect spell.
And as the colors of blue and red light intertwined in the air to form the dragon of the Pendragons, the two sides of same coin looked at each other, and found that, somehow, they knew the future looked bright.
Emrys and the Once and Future King, working together, at last.