Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin in any sense of the imagination. Pity party, anyone?
A/N: So, I'm sure stories like this have been explored, but I'm hoping to take it in a new direction. This is a look at what happened to Merlin the night of Uther's death.
It took a great deal of strain to push Gaius past his limits. Right now, he could barely contain his rage. His temper threatened to burst as the young king he had cared for finally crossed the line.
"He's a traitor, Gaius! And the lowest of all beings- a sorcerer! He's earned his death for all he's done!" Arthur cried in anger.
Gaius knew the boy was confused. He was hurt, and upset, and was grieving the loss of someone he had regarded as closely as a brother...But right now, none of that mattered. All that mattered was that he should still regard Merlin as his brother- and yet he was ready to kill him.
"You have no idea how much he has done for you!" Gaius barked, his emotions getting the better of him. "You have no idea how many times he has saved your life, Arthur- how many times he has sacrificed his own happiness, his own health for yours! You owe him everything-"
"He murdered my father!" Arthur interjected. His voice turned pained and low. "He admitted to it, Gaius. Why would he do that to me? How could he betray Camelot, like that? After everything, how can you not realize that he is evil- cruel! My father was right to-" He regained his passion as he thought of it, and his voice rose rapidly in volume until Gaius broke in.
"Right to exterminate his kind, Sire? Tell me you've learned better than to follow that path." It was a low blow- the way Gaius let his anger fuel into a scathing tone, but it kept Arthur quiet long enough for him to continue.
"He never wanted to kill Uther. He wanted to save him. Did you listen to Merlin long enough to hear that?" He asked bitterly. Arthur remained stoic, but a glance down to the ground affirmed that the king had not listened. "He went in disguise to heal your father, but the spell was thwarted by the work of Morgana, using Agravaine's assistance. They had placed an enchanted charm around his neck causing any healing attempts to reverse and harm the wearer by tenfold."
Gaius locked his gaze onto Arthur's.
"Merlin didn't have a chance. He did everything he could, Arthur. I'm ashamed that I did not see the charm beforehand, or at least prevent Merlin from going through with his attempt. But the guilt I felt after was nothing to how devastated Merlin was when he failed."
"But Gaius..." Arthur protested weakly. He seemed more unsure than Gaius had ever seen him. The physician continued.
"He was heartbroken. I spent all night trying to talk him out of it..." Gaius seemed to realize what he was saying. He had not intended to share so much. But it was too late: Arthur had noticed his hesitation.
"Talk him out of what, Gaius?" Arthur asked quietly. It was Gaius's turn to drop his eyes. He sighed.
"I saw him leaving your chambers that night. I was alarmed at the sight of him; I hadn't been able to talk to him yet of the enchantment, and so he believed that he was the sole cause of your father's death. You know how he hates to watch suffering. But knowing he had been the one to strike the ultimate blow to your heart...Arthur, he was so lost."
Arthur calmed as he listened, and suddenly Gaius could feel the weight of his words, and the waning strength he left to say them.
"He wouldn't want me to tell you this..." The physician trailed off. Arthur moved closer, and took hold of his arm to support him.
"Come on, Gaius."
Arthur sat him down at the table, and took the chair opposite.
"I know this has been hard on you," he said carefully, "but I need you to tell me."
Gaius studied him for a moment before continuing.
"I followed him, to make sure he was alright. It was a blessing that I arrived in time to do so. I found him on the outer wall. He was standing on top of the stone, with nothing to prevent him from falling over the side..."
Arthur visibly tightened. He swallowed thickly, and Gaius did the same before recalling the rest.
"I called to him gently, so as not to take him by surprise. He didn't even look up. He only stared down at the courtyard below. Then he spoke to me."
It didn't seem that he would be able to go on, and Arthur prodded him again.
"What did he say?" Arthur whispered. He had no desire to hear it, but knew that he had to.
Gaius seemed to turn even whiter.
"He said: It's over." The physician closed his eyes before going on. "I asked him to come down, to come inside with me. I said something about things looking better in the morning. And then he turned to me. His face was empty of all his goodness. He was blank. But his eyes were heavy with pain."
Arthur remembered opening the door at dawn that morning, and finding Merlin there, waiting. He knew right away the face that Gaius had described.
"Even with all of my years of experience, I was still at a loss for how to help him. I begged him then, not to go through with it. I called on everything and anything I could think of to convince him to change his mind. In the end, only one thing worked." Gaius gave him a weary smile. "I told him 'Arthur needs you now, more than you need to do this'. And he came down."
Arthur's face betrayed him in that moment; he swelled with fondness for his friend, and his eyes softened. Gaius warmed at the reaction his words had brought. It was about time.
The King didn't need to know how Merlin had sobbed into Gaius's chest for a good long time once he had come down. He didn't need to know how he had spoke terrible, ill thoughts of himself that Gaius had to deny heartily, or how often it had happened since. He didn't need to know any of that yet. For now, Gaius believed Arthur could understand enough of Merlin's selflessness.
"He loves you, Arthur." Gaius added. "And I promise you, he is the greatest friend you will ever know. Don't throw him away now."