A/N: Why is it that every time my fics seem to double in length of what I originally planned? This was meant to be a two-shot originally, then quickly got out of hand….sigh. Oh well. Yay for more to read! (At least I hope that's how you feel about my fics…)
So! COUNTDOWN TO SERIES 5! Here is a brand new fic. Completely unrelated to any of my others. The whole thing will be posted before the first episode of season five this Saturday. I've been working on it gradually, off and on between working on my other fics. Hope you like it!
((Edit: Um….Ok, so apparently there's been a change since the last time I checked and Merlin doesn't actually start until NEXT Saturday.
Ok. Done with random freakout. Well, this fic will be entirely posted before NEXT Saturday, then. I'll spread out the updates a tad to make the countdown more…official. The timing won't be nearly as perfect, but oh well.
WHY BBC?! WHY! D: ))
They stood there, staring down the gorge to the river that ran far below. Merlin could feel Arthur's head pull back as he looked across the gorge to the opposite side, then down again to the river. Merlin looked up as well, and knew exactly what Arthur was thinking.
Arthur could make the jump. Merlin could not.
Merlin's breath hitched. He knew what had to happen. He also knew that Arthur would never agree. But it was the only option.
Merlin swallowed hard. "Go," he said firmly. He pulled his arm from Arthur's shoulder and limped a few yards away. Arthur didn't respond, he didn't stop him moving. He just continued to stare between the gorge and the opposite side. "Go!" Merlin shouted at him.
"No!" Arthur's eyes snapped to Merlin's, furious that he would even suggest such a thing. He looked back. "We'll keep moving. There's got to be a way to cross farther down. We'll make it."
Merlin shook his head. "They're not that far behind us. I'm slowing you down. If we stay together, we both die. If you go—"
"I am not leaving you to die." He strode forward and grabbed Merlin's arm, pulling it around his shoulders again to help him hobble on, but Merlin would have none of it.
Merlin had been contemplating his options during their whole escape, in case the likely event of a fight became inevitable. And the truth was, he could think of no way out. If he had his magic it would be different, he could take them. He'd have to reveal what he was in the process, but they would make it out alive. But the potion weighed heavily in his stomach as an unpleasant reminder of his handicap. Which meant, quite simply, that if Arthur stayed, odds were significantly high that he would die. Merlin couldn't count on being able to protect him. The knights wouldn't suspect anything for at least another day and a half, and who knows how long it would take for them to find them after that.
Arthur would be dead long before help arrived—killed not by any powerful, magical foe, but by a stupid band of mercenaries that had been paid far too much for the pleasure.
"You have to live," Merlin insisted. "If you die, Camelot dies with you."
"Don't be absurd, Merlin. I'm not going to die, because we're going to get out of this. Now come on!"Merlin took a deliberate step away.
"No." He said firmly. "I'm staying put."
"Damn it, Merlin! This is not the time to be a stubborn idiot!"
Merlin's mind reeled. Arthur wouldn't leave. Merlin knew that. They were too close. Arthur could never abandon his friend to die. Merlin looked in the direction he knew their pursuers would be coming from. He knew what he had to do. But that did not mean it was going to be easy.
Merlin gritted his teeth, forcing the words out. "I'm a warlock!" he shouted.
Arthur froze at the words, but his shock faded quite quickly, and an urgent irritation filled its place. "Merlin, you're being an idiot, and it's not going to work. I know you're not a sorcerer. Now let's go!" He once again moved to help Merlin hobble away, but he never got the change to touch him.
Merlin threw out his hand, and with a flash of his eyes, Arthur skidded along the ground several feet, arms instinctively coming up to block an invisible force. When he lowered his arms, he stared, mouth gaping like a fish. Merlin fought the wave of dizziness that overcame him. It had taken tremendous effort to overcome the potion for that brief moment. He doubted he could do it again.
"I'm not a sorcerer," Merlin agreed, his tone turning naturally dark as a lump grew in his throat. "I said, I'm a warlock."
Arthur continued to stare, mouth gaping, arms still partially raised. "How—?" he asked at last, but he didn't complete the question. He put both his hands to his head, turned and walked several feet before turning around and walking back. "Ok." He said, in that tone of voice he used when trying to solve an impossible problem in a very small amount of time. "We're going to follow this gorge until we find a place to cross or a place to hide. Then we're going back to Camelot. I don't know what the hell you were thinking dabbling in this stuff, but it ends. It ends now. No one will ever know. Things will go back to normal."
Merlin wanted to scream. Arthur was such a clot pole! This wasn't something he could just "fix" and pretend never happened!
But it gave him a way out. Merlin could do it. They could go back to Camelot. He could pretend to have given up magic—that he had just been experimenting. Things could never go back to normal, but they could pretend.
For how long?
But no. They'd never make it back to Camelot. The mercenaries would find them long before they made it. Merlin would be forced to fight them anyways. He would fail, and Arthur would die.
"You're such a fool," Merlin said quietly, forcing a small smile to his lips. "I've been practicing magic long before I came to Camelot." He had to do this. He had to make Arthur hate him. It was the only way.
Arthur shook his head. "No. No you wouldn't..."
"I told you the first day we met I could take you apart with less than one blow." Arthur's eyes grew even rounder as he remembered. He opened his mouth to utter another protest, but no sound came out. "Did you think it was a coincidence I became your manservant so soon after arriving in Camelot?"
Merlin swallowed around the lump in his throat. This next piece of information would seal it. He knew. "I knew about Morgana." Pure silence met his words. Once again Arthur opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. "I knew about her magic years before she openly turned against us."
"You…you never said…"
"Of course I didn't," Merlin answered automatically. "Why would I betray her? Two magical people living in secret under the rule of a sadistic king? I suppose you could say we're kinsmen." He paused. "Oh, and speaking of kinsmen, I also knew she was your sister."
Arthur's jaw was clenched, the vein in his neck throbbing. The shock was wearing off, and cold fury was taking its place.
"You bastard!" In an instant Arthur's sword was in his hand. It shook as Arthur's arm trembled. "You…you lying magical bastard!" He leapt forward, bringing his sword back to ram into his traitorous servant.
Merlin, knowing this was a horrible idea, again forcibly pushed out with his magic while he stepped aside. Arthur was forced to drop the suddenly red-hot metal mid-strike.
"You can't defeat me," Merlin informed him, stretching himself up tall, despite his injured leg, spinning head, and churning stomach. "But I'm done with you. Leave now before I change my mind about letting you live."
Arthur practically snarled at him, but the snarl faded and a blank look passed over his face. "You wouldn't."
"Of course I—"
"No," Arthur interrupted, standing up straight again, continuing to stare blankly at the person in front of him. "You really wouldn't. You're not a killer. I know that much. You can't even pretend to be one."
"You don't know anything about me!" Merlin shouted. Why did Arthur seem determined to see the good in him at the worst possible moment?
"That's your plan," Arthur said quietly, sounding like he'd finally figured it out. "You're trying to make me abandon you."
"Don't be ridicu—"
"If you wanted to kill me you'd have done it already!" Arthur interrupted. Merlin had to admit he had a point.
"You want to know why I didn't?" Merlin finally snapped. "I needed you alive."
"Why?" Arthur demanded.
"To bring you to my side. To warp you into the king my people need, a king who would turn on his father's ideals and bring magic back where it belongs! For years I bided my time, waiting for the ideal moment to kill Uther and raise you up in his place. But you will never be the king we need. You're a coward. Manipulative is an admirable quality for my purpose, but no one so spineless can make the changes I need."
Arthur shook his head violently. "You're lying…" he said again, weakly. "You're…you're too much of an idiot to be an inside traitor."
"Then let me ask you this," Merlin's heart screamed for him to stop, but he forced the most damning words passed his lips, "did you ever figure out why Dragoon seemed so familiar?"
There was a moment of confusion, and then Arthur appeared to go numb. No emotion floated across his face, his body just went slack, giving up a battle. At that moment, Merlin knew that he had succeeded.
"It was you," Arthur said softly. "I never saw the two of you together. All this time…it's been you all along." His face slowly morphed into resigned betrayal. "You killed my father."
Merlin fought the tightness in his throat in desperation. He couldn't trust himself to speak, so he merely put on another sadistic grin and nodded his confirmation.
Arthur opened and closed his mouth several times, searching for something else to say, grasping for some slight possibility that this was all a huge misunderstanding…But then, the sound of their pursuers reached their ears, and both heads turned to the tree line. Blood rushed in Merlin's ears. They were running out of time! Arthur had to leave now! Or all this would have been for nothing!
He needn't have worried. Some quick steps and a heavy thud made Merlin turn his head back to Arthur—except Arthur wasn't there anymore.
Quickly, Arthur regained his feet on the opposite side of the gorge, staring at Merlin with an intense hurt and hatred. Merlin stared back, silently willing Arthur to leave—to save himself. At last, Arthur turned and sprinted away, just as the first of the mercenaries broke into sight.
Merlin turned to meet his fate.
A/N: Dun, dun, DUN! Hope you all liked it. Please leave a review and let me know what you think!