AN: I'm so sorry I haven't responded to your reviews, and though I told myself I'd never do this, I'm sending out a collective thank you to you all who reviewed the last ficlet. I'm very pleased you guys enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In fact, a few of you liked it so much that you wanted a continuation, so here it is! ;D And yes, the title IS an intended pun! ;)


Prompt: Continuation of #25

Characters/ Pairings: Merlin, Morgana, Gwen, and Arthur

Warnings/Ratings: Bit of BAMF Merlin, two parts: one set directly after the battle and the other set the next morning (an hour or two after #25's time, if that makes sense)

Word Count: 1,557


Shouldn't Have To

"You can't have expected to win, Morgana."

The witch, her icy green eyes blazing with loathing so intense it probably could have peeled some poor soul's face off, spat, "This isn't over."

Unfazed by the glare, Merlin said grimly, "It never is, is it?"

Through the pool of water, Morgana's lips twitched into a smirk, and her image began to be disrupted by ripples. "Never, Emrys."

He grit his teeth at the discomforting sound of his Druidic name passing through her lips, and a steely, yet mischievous glint hardened in his eyes as a smile of his own slipped onto his face. Timing it just right, he added cheekily, "Maybe next time, you'll be courageous enough to face me yourself instead of hiding behind your sister's magic mirror."

The connection completely broke just after he saw her beautiful, cold features twist into an expression of complete wrath at his barb, and though he suspected that he would regret that later, it felt ever so satisfying to know he had gotten the last word and had successfully fractured her cool-headed façade.

Immediately turning his head to the orange glow originating from the direction of the citadel, Merlin watched the remainder of the daemons, each with an armed rider on its back, frantically fleeing from the magic of Emrys, and without pausing to so much as allow his prancing heart, adrenaline, and blood to calm, he took a step forward, summoned his magic, and followed that sixth sense—that panicked pricking in his mind—that told him whenever the prat was in trouble…

It was really a handy trick, teleporting. It was rather a shame—no, it was more ironic that it was this skill that he had been practicing and perfecting when Arthur had discovered his magic and subsequently banished him…

Not that that made any difference anyway. He would respect Arthur's decision—he didn't blame him, not in the slightest—but that didn't mean that he wouldn't enter the city whenever he damn well needed to.

And right now, he definitely needed to.

His footstep landed in the courtyard, and as the gold faded from his eyes, Merlin scanned for the familiar head of blonde hair lying amongst the unconscious and dead.

He found Arthur within seconds, and after seeing that it was worse than he thought—he could see the sheen of sweat coating his brow, he could hear the gurgling gasps, and he could sense the disgusting magic tainting and spreading in his blood—Merlin ran and threw himself to his knees beside his King.

Merlin whispered a spell that would purge Arthur's wound of the poison, and the gold of his eyes, bright with the power of the magic, illuminated the King's pale face.

Completely exhausted from the task, the warlock's hand fell from the King, and his eyelids and head drooped briefly before a cluttering stone caught Merlin's attention.

His eyes flickered upward to see Guinevere, her delicate hand over her mouth…her eyes wide with—with disbelief? With awe? With happiness? With sadness or shock? With disgust and fear? Merlin didn't know.

He didn't know how she reacted to the revelation of his secret in the first place. Arthur hadn't given her the chance to react or him the chance to see her reaction. But now, she saw

Standing abruptly, Merlin, feeling as horrible as he did only a week ago when it had been Arthur standing there looking at him like that, backed away, and fingering the letter he had ready in his pocket, he whispered, "You didn't see me; I wasn't here."

Gwen nodded slowly, and after taking a look at her partially healed, unconscious husband and at the last daemons visible in the sky, she darted to him and enveloped him in a warm hug. "Thank you, Merlin."

Smiling weakly, Merlin pulled away and pressed the parchment into her hand. "Put it somewhere he can find it for me?"

By the time Gwen inquiringly looked back up from the slip of parchment to her friend, he was gone.

~…~

Merlin slept. The amount of magic he had used to frighten the daemons away was immense, and the fact that he had healed Arthur on top of that…

Yes, Merlin slept, and it was far too soon that he awoke to freezing fingers and toes and shivering limbs.

Growling irritably to himself, the warlock sat up, rubbed his numb toes through his boot, and huddled further into the cloak he had stolen from Arthur before he left.

In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best idea to camp by the Lake of Avalon when the first freeze was so quickly approaching, but it was necessary. Especially when he hadn't known when Morgana would attack. Perhaps he should move elsewhere…to the hut, he remembered. The hut where he and Lancelot had hid from the Dorocha, where he had played 'Old Merlin…'

Nodding to himself, Merlin decided that later that afternoon, he would move there.

In the meantime, however, he'd get a fire started. A fire sounded very pleasant.

Completely unaware of his surroundings and still half-asleep, Merlin meandered and tripped further into the forest surrounding the Lake and collected as much firewood as he could carry (which was a lot, considering he was holding up a good portion of it in the air with magic) before heading back.

Only to find that he was no longer alone.

And suddenly, Merlin felt wide-awake, and he stared at a wind-kissed Arthur, who was waiting patiently on the shoreline and looking out across the waters.

He was here. He was here. Arthur was here.

After gaping for a moment in confusion and shock, a slow smile started to show at the corners of his mouth, and his heart, soaring with joy, directly betrayed his mind, which reminded him that he shouldn't get his hopes up.

There were many things he could have said to get Arthur's attention. Half of him wanted to chuck a piece of firewood at the back of his head. Which idiot had let him ride alone when he was still recovering from his injury?

Merlin suspected that no one had even known—well, no one who knew of how badly he had been injured, anyway—about the King's spontaneous decision to take a ride.

The other half of him wanted to scare the living daylights out of him... just because that'd be amusing. He hadn't had a good laugh in a full week.

Instead, when he opened his mouth, he ended up blurting incredulously, "How the hell did you find me?"

Arthur didn't even jump, and he didn't turn around. For a moment, he was silent, and a perplexed crease appeared between his eyebrows.

"I—I followed it," the King said softly.

Not understanding, Merlin's brow furrowed, and Arthur continued, "Your magic guided me. Or at least, my sense of it, I think. I wouldn't know. I just rode, and here I am."

Arthur finally turned to him. The sapphire eyes only fleetingly rested on the floating pile of wood, and Merlin, suddenly very uncomfortable, grinned sheepishly and unconsciously allowed the wood to fall to the ground.

Guilt and regret filtered into the King's eyes. "Don't."

"…Don't?" Merlin, who hadn't realized what he had done so automatically under Arthur's gaze, repeated slowly. "Arthur, you're making absolutely no sense, and I'd rather you just leave me in my peaceful—ha, sorry, was it supposed to be peaceful? It hasn't been very peaceful at all, has it? Well, then, I'd rather you just leave me to my not-so-peaceful exile and—"

Looking more amused than exasperated by Merlin's rambling, Arthur said, "Shut up, Merlin."

"That's not very nice."

A smirk flitted across his King's features. "Get over it, and let me explain."

"I'm all ears, then," Merlin muttered, crossing his arms expectantly.

That seemed to unbalance Arthur for a moment, and slowly, he slipped Merlin's letter from his pocket and rolled it around in his fingers.

"You wrote this."

"Congratulations, Arthur," Merlin, trying to hide a broad grin and failing miserably, said with heavy sarcasm. "You can read. And?"

"And you shouldn't—you shouldn't have to…" Frustration flashed across his features, and instead of continuing that thought or attempting to 'explain'—what a strange definition of 'explain' he had—more, Arthur took two large strides to shorten the distance between them and pulled Merlin into an embrace.

"Thank you. For being there."

"Always, Arthur," Merlin said gently.

The King pulled away, and he finished, "You shouldn't have to be afraid anymore. I'm sorry…for that."

"That wasn't your fault."

Shaking his head, Arthur denied, "No. I see the truth now, Merlin. I was a fool. I was blinded by hurt—it wasn't so much the magic, Merlin, do you know? I don't really care about that. I was blinded by hurt…just as you were blinded by fear. Fear of us...us all. And without even mentioning my father, I myself hadn't given you any reason not to be afraid. I'm sorry that I hadn't—I can only hope—"

Tears beaded at Merlin's eyes, and having heard enough, he smiled and said, "I forgave you long ago, prat."

Smiling broadly, the King jerked his head to the tree-line and said with a smirk, "You ready to come home?"

There were two horses waiting in the trees.


AN: Forgive my mistakes. I bet this is full of 'em. :D