A/N: Recently, I rewatched the episode Eye of the Phoenix, (s3e8) which has some great moments between Merlin and Gwaine that touches on their friendship. In one scene, when talking about how Gwaine followed Merlin into the Perilous lands not for Arthur, but for Merlin, Merlin says that he would do the same for Gwaine. It got me thinking. What would the same really amount to?
And for whatever reason, this idea popped into my head, and wouldn't stop bugging me until I started writing it down. I have no idea where it will go, how long it will be, nor what exactly will happen, but regardless, I hope you enjoy!
Gwaine was acting strangely.
Merlin wasn't quite sure when it'd first started, but for the past week or so, he'd noticed that Gwaine had not been his normal cheeky, yammering self. He frowned far too much, didn't tell bad jokes or insult the king, and never pestered Merlin to go drinking with him.
Once Merlin began watching the knight more closely, there were other things, too. He stayed as far away from Arthur as possible – even going so far as to let the king win in a spar to end it sooner. He strayed from the group whenever possible, and sometimes, he'd get this look about him. Like he was afraid of something. Something about it all gave Merlin a very strange, very wary feeling.
Eventually, the knights started to notice, too. It began with Percival, who was far more observant than many gave him credit for, and then Leon, and Elyan, and eventually Arthur. They talked about Gwaine, about how he was out of sorts lately, and how odd that was, because nothing in Camelot was amiss. They weren't at war, there were no threats to the kingdom, they'd had a healthy harvest and plenty of food for the coming winter. The local tavern was as busy as always, and the knights themselves had all been faring well. So, why wasn't Gwaine?
They all asked Gwaine about it at some point or other. They'd go and find him alone and ask him kindly if there was something on his mind, but he'd always snap at them to leave him alone or pull some half-hearted excuse about a girl rejecting him or a shortage of his favorite mead at the tavern. But no one really believed him. Still, the knights assumed he'd gotten himself into a funk and obviously didn't want to be bothered about it. He wasn't dying or in mortal danger, so they left him alone. It happened to everyone once in a while, they reasoned, so they gave Gwaine some space and, for the most part, stopped worrying.
Merlin was the only one who didn't ask Gwaine about his strange moods. He watched and waited. He knew that something was wrong, and he knew that it was more than Gwaine was letting on, more than any of the knights were willing to believe. He just wasn't sure what.
That all changed one night, when Gaius was away and Merlin was holed up studying the potion recipes that Gaius had left for him to make. Surrounded by candles and books, Merlin was too engrossed in his reading to hear the first knock. The second time, he looked up.
"Hello?" He peeked around and saw that the door was cracking open. "Come in – who is it?"
Gwaine poked his head around the door, his expression serious.
"Gwaine?" Merlin squinted against the dim light, and went to light more candles around the room. "Is there something I can do for you?" He asked, smiling.
"Gaius isn't here, is he?" Gwaine asked, glancing around nervously.
Merlin frowned. "No, he's been away in the lower town, with a patient. Why? Do you need medical attention?"
"No, no, I'm… fine…" Gwaine held his gloves in his hands, and wrung them tight as he looked at the ground. "It's not that. I came here… Uhm… Well, Merlin, you know everyone's been saying how I've been acting out of sorts lately," he said. Merlin crossed his arms with a worried frown.
"Yes, I'd noticed, but thought you didn't want to talk about it. Are you alright?"
"Yes, well, no, but-" Gwaine's tone unnerved Merlin. He'd never heard the man talk so softly, or so worriedly. "I…" He sighed, and glanced up. "Merlin, I always told you that you were the only friend I've got." Merlin nodded. "And… and I suppose that might not be true now, but… Merlin, you're still the best friend I've got. You said once that you'd help me, if ever I needed it, like you helped Arthur in the Perilous Lands."
"Yes, of course I would."
"Well, it's just… Merlin, I think you're the only one I can trust. With… this."
"Gwaine," Merlin asked, and felt the need to put a hand on Gwaine's shoulder, like Arthur sometimes did with the knights, "What's wrong?"
Gwaine looked suddenly terrified. "I don't know, Merlin. That's just it. I don't know what's going on, but I think…" he glanced side to side nervously, eyes darting around with a skittishness completely unbefitting of a knight of Camelot.
"Gwaine, whatever it is, you can trust me," Merlin said, voice even and calm. "What's wrong?" After a few steadying breaths, Gwaine finally made eye contact.
"Merlin, I think I might have magic."