Category: Gen (canon)
Characters/Pairings: Gaius, Merlin
Rating/Warnings: K+
Summary: A missing scene from 4x02.
Notes: Every time I listen to A Pound of Flesh by Radical Face, there are a few lines that make me think of the relationship between Gaius and Merlin. I've been trying for ages to come up with a story that would fit, and I finally succeeded while driving to work this morning.

Oh my boy, you're alive
Your heart's still beating
So don't you mind, don't you mind
We all drift sometimes
-Radical Face, A Pound of Flesh

Word travelled fast in Camelot; Gaius knew that Arthur and his knights had returned from the Isle of the Blessed long before they ever reached the city gates, but he did not join in the celebrations that broke out in the streets. He couldn't bear to. Instead, he retreated to his chambers, shutting out the cheers of victory and relief, and sat weakly down on his bench because he feared his legs would give out if he took one more step.

Merlin was dead.

For a moment he hated Arthur Pendragon, truly hated him, and felt the hatred curdling within him, filling the hole in his chest that had slowly been forming ever since the Dorocha attacks had stopped, because that was when his fears had begun, and when he heard Arthur's name on the peoples' lips he knew in his bones that they were true. Merlin had been adamant that he would take Arthur's place, and if Arthur had returned alive and victorious, then Merlin had paid the price, just as he always did. It is my destiny to protect Arthur, he had said before leaving, and then his boy, his boy had stepped through that veil, terrified and alone and so, so young.

It felt as if a huge chasm had opened up within him at that, swallowing up his hatred and leaving a vast emptiness behind, and Gaius tried to catch his breath before it escaped him entirely. He had told Merlin once that he was the only thing he cared about in this world, and since then his love for him had only grown. He had watched him struggle and suffer and then carry on despite all his losses and sacrifices, and his love had mixed with respect and awe and just a tinge of desperation, because he knew that that was far too much to tie to one person, but he couldn't help it. He had invested his whole self into loving Merlin, just as Merlin had done with Arthur, and now both of them had lost everything.

And then Gaius wept, feeling inadequate in his mourning, because the brightest light had gone out of the world and he was the only one who knew it. He wanted to rip the world apart, to tear a hole in the universe to match the one that Merlin had left behind, but he couldn't believe that there would be one big enough to satisfy, and all he could do was hold his head in his hands and try not to break any further.

He could hear footsteps in the hallway outside, and quickly tried to get himself under control; it was probably one of the knights come to deliver the news — most likely Arthur himself, because Arthur would never let anyone else deliver such news, and Gaius could no longer hate him because it hadn't been his fault, at least not any more than destiny had made it already. He swiped at his eyes but couldn't get his trembling under control, and hardly looked at door when it opened.

"Gaius," said a voice, and Gaius turned his head to see Merlin standing in the doorway, miserable and wrecked but so very, very alive.

Gaius went numb to his very core but somehow found himself on his feet. "Merlin," he said hoarsely, and Merlin looked at him desperately and choked out, "Lancelot is dead."

Then relief spread through his veins, and Gaius felt that he could burst with happiness. "Merlin," he said again, stepping towards him, and then they collapsed together, clinging to one another and both wracked with silent sobs for different reasons. Gaius knew that he would have to deal with the repercussions of Merlin's announcement later, because Merlin had lost another friend and with him another part of himself, because Lancelot had known of his magic and around him Merlin was free. But now all Gaius could say was, "Merlin. Oh, Merlin, my boy, you're alive."

And that was all that mattered.