Arthur: All right, I know I'm a prince… so we can't be friends. But if I wasn't a prince-"
Arthur: Well, then… I think we'd probably get on.
A/N: This is 'what if' type of story where Arthur learns that Balinor is Merlin's father. My take on the finale of serie 2 (The Last Dragonlord). Obviously there are spoilers from this episode. ^^ Hope you enjoy it! This contains major friendship/bromance moments. Thanks to CharlieCats for BETA reading this!
I really love Merlin and Arthur's friendship. I think they've got one strong bond. And I know a lot of you ship Merthur... but the thing is, I think friendship is more pure and wonderful than romance. And that's why I honestly love their friendship, and I think romance would just break it... I mean, that's just my opinion though.
I do not own Merlin in any way, it all belongs to BBC.
The ravaging of the dragon in Camelot had forced them to travel to find the last Dragonlord, Balinor. Riding through the cold weather, the rain, and the night had led them into Cenred's kingdom. Cenred's kingdom was full of bandits, foulness and evil. Merlin had been acting strangely, as he had barely opened his mouth and had nearly eaten nothing. Arthur had been concerned, but he had told himself that it was simply a bit of home-sickness.
But at last, Arthur and Merlin's quest to find the last Dragonlord had been successful. Although Arthur had suffered from a what-seemed-to-be mortal wound, he had managed to survive. It was still a mystery how he had woken up from his injury, but right now, it was the least of his worries.
He had stepped out of the dim cave, unaware that the man who was speaking with Merlin was in fact the man who had cured him and, ultimately, Balinor.
Arthur had felt like he could lift a horse, because he was so full of energy and feeling so well rested. Merlin had told him they had found Balinor but that, unfortunately, he would not go back to Camelot.
"What kind of a man is he?" Arthur had asked with indignation.
"I don't know… I thought he would be something more." Merlin had whispered back, which had brought a confused feeling to Arthur. Even after many attempts to persuade him, Balinor had resisted.
"Gaius spoke of the nobility of Dragonlords, clearly he was wrong."
And at last, here they are, looking back on Balinor's cave.
Arthur wonders what has gotten into Merlin. Ever since they have left the cave, he has stayed quiet. Arthur tries to tease him by calling him his usual nicknames, and pocking him with a stick. But nothing works. He even tries to compliment Merlin and tells him that he may not be a fool after all, but Merlin replies nonchalantly. "Yeah, I feel the same. Now that I realize you're not as arrogant as you sound."
He really wonders what has gotten into him. Even his insults have lost their patronizing sound, and that's saying something. He wants to be able to read Merlin's mind, to know what is wrong, but he knows how impossible this is.
So, he plays along to Merlin's very bad teasing. "You still think I'm arrogant?"
"Oh. No. More, like…" he seems to think a long time as he gathers the wood to make fire. "Supercilious."
Arthur laughs inwardly, because it is simply too fun to notice how Merlin is trying to sound eloquent and pompous, when he probably doesn't even know the meaning of the word.
So he says. "That's a big word Merlin! You sure you know what it means?" He grins deviously.
"It doesn't quite mean that." Arthur objects, suddenly glad that they are talking again. The atmosphere still feels awfully tense, but there is a definite improvement.
Merlin just says that these are other words to describe Arthur. He goes on to list some more, but Arthur is no longer listening. He hears the twitching of wood, and he gets up, his sword in his hand, ready to pounce at whoever is making that noise. That idiot, Merlin, continues and lists some insults, and were he not so stupid, Arthur would have probably slammed his head on a tree trunk. Arthur hisses under his breath for Merlin to shut up.
But then, Merlin realizes that Arthur was right as he hears another twitch from afar, and follows discreetly behind, like a cat.
Arthur and Merlin are about to hurl themselves in one direction when, suddenly, Balinor steps out of the shadows from the other side.
"Careful boys. These are dangerous woods. I thought you might need some help." He explains, his eyes fixed on Merlin.
Arthur is suspicious, because he doesn't understand what this is supposed to mean. He stares at Balinor for some time until he demands to know if Balinor will accompany them back to Camelot. Balinor's eyes flicker to Arthur's face for one second, and looks irritated. He nods, telling Merlin he was right. His eyes do not leave Merlin's figure.
Whatever that's supposed to mean, thinks Arthur, aggravated from being so rudely ignored.
But Arthur, knowing the heart of men, promises that Balinor's actions will not go unrewarded. Balinor does not look impressed at all, and he simply shrugs in disdain, saying that he seeks no reward, or something very noble along these lines.
How noble of him, thinks Arthur with some kind of frustration in his heart. He nods, and turns around, as he proposes to eat something.
He feels a certain awkwardness of being here, and suddenly really desires to just leave Merlin and Balinor on their own. He does not really know what caused this.
So, as they go off to gather some wood, he decides to take another path, close enough so he can maybe understand what is going on between the two. It takes some effort for him to be close enough and stay undetected, so he misses parts of the conversation. He finally hears something:
"Hunith?" Balinor asks, his voice full of surprise.
Arthur frowns, trying to remember where he has heard that name before.
"She's still alive?"
"She's my mother." Merlin explains. Arthur nods, remembering that Merlin had mentioned her name before.
Balinor mumbles something with a sad tone to it, and Arthur grimaces, trying to get closer.
"She never married," Merlin simply says, and there is a long pause, in which Arthur can only imagine what is going on, "I'm your son."
Arthur suddenly wants to run away, because he feels like he's interrupted a sacred moment that should not have been eavesdropped upon. This clears up Merlin's strange attitude during the past days.
He barely hears both of them whispering something, but he does not care to listen anymore. Arthur gets up from his position and walks away, a bit exasperated when he steps on wood, creating noise. Merlin sees him and says something quick to Balinor.
Arthur walks away, few logs of wood in his hands. He wonders why Merlin chose to tell him nothing at all. He feels slightly cheated, but he knows that Merlin probably has his reasons.
He does not say a thing to Merlin or Balinor, and at night he cannot fall asleep. He hears them talking about their lives, about why Balinor could not come back, about how Uther made it impossible for him to be with his family, about Merlin's mother, and about what could have been. Arthur's heart feels tense. And then, he hears something that makes him realize how amazing Merlin can become:
"For thousand of year, it has gone down from father… to son," Balinor explains. "Like all Dragonlords, you won't know you have that power until you face your first dragon."
Merlin, facing a dragon?
How impossible this sounds. But Arthur knows, truly, that Merlin will become something grand, and he can save Camelot if he really wants to. It is a burden for Arthur to know because, now, he wished he did not know any of this. To have lived in the ignorance. But there is no going back.
Arthur does not listen, and lets sleep finally come. It is, however, only after hours of restless thinking that he finally falls asleep with the image of Merlin, his manservant, as a Dragonlord.
The next day dawns on Arthur with fear. He wakes up with the sound of marching and metal in his ears. He swiftly gets up, his senses looking for an enemy. Balinor has gone, leaving only a little wooden statue of a dragon in front of Merlin. Arthur smiles for only a second at this gift, and finally catches the sight of Balinor, who is sitting few meters away. He sighs. However, the marching noise keeps him on his guard. He can only guess that this is Cenred's men. He wakes up Merlin, telling him all that he knows. Merlin looks around, panicked.
And then, all of a sudden, from behind comes a half a dozen of men, all armed. Arthur's eyes widened and he pushes Merlin back.
They all begin to fight, and all Arthur can really see and hear is the clashing of swords. After few minutes of combat, he suddenly hears Balinor shouting. From the corner of his eyes, Arthur sees Balinor coming in front of his son in a protective way, and he takes the full blow of one of the men's sword. Arthur is distracted by another couple of men whom he slaughters violently. When he can finally look back, the assassin is on the floor and Merlin is holding onto Balinor with his dear life. Balinor can barely say few words until he breathes out one last time.
Everything happens so fast: he sees Merlin, bent over the body of Balinor. The corpse that will no longer move. Merlin is shaking, his shoulder shrugging at every second while he sobs under his breath. The sob echoes through the thick air of the damp forest, and it is almost an imaginary scene. As if they are in a nightmare that they are not waking up from.
"No!" Arthur hurls out, violently slamming his sword into the cannot imagine the feelings Merlin has to be enduring right now.
Merlin's sobs stop as he rises from the cadaver of his father. Using his hands, he clears away all the tears from his face because it is not normal to cry over the death of a man he's just met. But Arthur knows better. He knows that the man is no ordinary man. He is the parent of Merlin, a bond that can never be broken.
Merlin turns around, his face looking sorry and desolated. Arthur wants to tell him to cease that fake expression; that there was no need to hide anything from him. Arthur looks somberly at Merlin, his eyes meeting the tormented ones.
"Camelot is doomed." He says. And he doesn't just mean Camelot or Uther. He means the people, he means the hope is completely gone.
He slowly approaches Merlin, his face now fixed on Balinor's face that appears to be sleeping, almost looking like he is in a deep phase of dreaming. However, Balinor is never waking up from this dream.
Arthur is not one to give comforting pats as he usually disregards physical contact with people because, to him, they are simply a sign of weakness. However, he cannot think of anything that he can do for Merlin, so he reaches out, and pats Merlin's shoulders.
He wants to tell him that he is there for him. He wants to tell him that there is no need to hide anything; that he is there for him. But a part of him knows how impossible this is. Because there would be consequences. Because Dragonlords transmit their powers from son to son. Which means that ultimately, Merlin has the same powers as Balinor. And to admit this would mean that Arthur would be defying Uther, who would surely never let this matter go unnoticed.
This is to protect Merlin.
He closes his eyes, feeling like a coward.
"Arthur... I'm sorry I failed to protect my-... Balinor." Merlin says dully, his voice sounding awfully off. "I should have been more careful."
"No, Merlin. It is I," Arthur begins, unaware how to says this. "It is I who should apologize for what you're going through. It is never easy to... see someone die. And I can see he meant a great deal to you." There. This could be just enough to make Merlin understand that Arthur is here for him.
Merlin holds a puzzled look while Arthur drops his comforting pat. The eyes full of sorrow meet Arthurs' for just one second, until Merlin looks down as if he were avoiding Arthur. "I do not see what you're talking about."
"Merlin, there is no need to explain anything; you two bonded immediately. Even I noticed it," Arthur presses. "All I want you to know is that you are not alone..." This is against Arthur's principal to never act icky and touchy around somebody, but he does not care.
Merlin nods, murmuring a thank you. There is an awkward moment when Merlin looks away and falls to his knees. He lay on the wet floor, his hand covering his face as he lets out silent tears.
Arthur, who does not want to disturb Merlin any further, looks around to see if he can see any enemy. Since he cannot, he decides to do an act to properly thank Balinor. He didn't know the man well, but he was Merlin's father, he deserved a proper funeral.
He walks over to Balinor's body, as he lifts him up. Merlin looks at Arthur in a confused manner. "Stay here, I'll be back." He promises.
With Balinor in his arms, he begins to walk, trying desperately to find a shelter of some kind. After few minutes of silence, he finally finds a little forest clearing, where everything looks peaceful and serene.
He slowly puts Balinor's cadaver on the center. Then, he grabs his leather water container, and with a piece of cloth that he tears from his tunic, he begins to clean Balinor's face. He brushes through the supposedly last Dragonlord's greasy hair, using his hand and a bit of water. He folds Balinor's arms, and properly closes the dead man's eyes.
Finally, he gathers wood and puts it all beside the corpse. As he puts the last log next to Balinor, he notices Merlin emerging from the clearing. Arthur gets up, very slowly, suddenly frightened to have offended Merlin.
However, to his joy, Merlin does not approach him with an angry look. Instead, he walks over and says. "Thank you."
There is something more in Merlin's words, but Arthur doesn't quite know what it is. And this is all he needs.
"Um...well, I suppose, we should say- something?" Arthur suggests when Merlin says nothing, his face blank.
"Oh. Right." Merlin gulps, looking perplexed and scared.
"Or not. Words are not always necessary," Arthur suggests. "But I will say thank you to him. For saving my life. And for being there..." He lets his voice trail off in the distance.
Merlin barely nods. "Thank you..."
And there is more than just words in Merlin's tone. It is a caring, loving tone. A tone that Arthur is not yet ready to forget.
Merlin takes the set of stones required to start a fire from his pockets. Arthur wants to tell him that he can use whatever form of magic he possesses, that this would be more gratifying, but he stops himself because he does not really know what form of magic Dragonlords possess.
The dancing sparks reach the logs, and a great fire begins. The flames stir up like a red wave, and poignant pops resonate as the wood is slowly consumed by the heat. Merlin never looks away from Balinor's face, and Arthur pats him one last time on his shoulder and leaves him be. He knows all the boy needs is solitude to properly say goodbye to his father.
He now wishes he might have protected Merlin more. Time can only heal the wound Merlin suffers.
No. No one really ever heals from losing someone they love, especially a parent. Arthur thinks.
He glances at Merlin one last time before heading to the horses.
Merlin, the last Dragonlord.
A/N: Well this is it... I'm thinking of maybe adding another chapter where Arthur supposedly 'slays' the dragon, when in fact it is all Merlin's doing.
Please review if you liked it! Or not. ^^