Author's Note: Alright everyone. I'm officially on board the Merdred ship. This story began to write itself immediately after S5E2, so here it is. Comments are always welcome and appreciated.
"Let me help you with that."
Mordred had heard those exact words so often now that they brought an inexplicable smirk to his face. The first time that Merlin had spoken them, Mordred had felt very uneasy and the following conversation wasn't one he had taken lightly.
But now, Merlin had made a habit of this little ritual, and Mordred had relaxed. While he knew enough to still hide parts of himself, he'd soon realized that Merlin would not be taken in by the same innocent act that everyone else had fallen for, and therefore he felt much freer around Merlin: freer with both his words and actions. As such, he eventually discovered that he didn't entirely dislike Merlin's presence.
The knight felt Merlin's arms wrap around him and his pulse quickened, as it always did. Mordred felt the weight lift off of him as Merlin undid his cloak and carried it away.
"You took quite a beating today, practicing with Gwaine," commented Merlin conversationally. Mordred smiled as he tugged off his gloves and Merlin came to help him with his sword and chain mail.
"Yes, well, I would never improve my sword-fighting abilities if I only ever challenged the lesser knights. And of course, you and I both know that I could best Gwaine any time I pleased."
"Of course. If you fancied a swift execution, that is. Personally I think you're better off sticking to the occasional beating."
Mordred laughed quietly. The musical tone soothed Merlin even as it prickled him with discomfort. The sound made Merlin picture a burbling brook timidly racing across stones; it sounded altogether too sweet and innocent to belong to Arthur's future murderer. The contrast between Mordred's appearance and his true self set Merlin on edge.
"Obviously. I have no intent to make my magic known."
"Yes, you have been very cautious with your magic since coming here. Haven't used it once, as far as I've seen."
"What, keeping an eye on me, Emrys? Or do you just like to look?" he quipped. Mordred could practically hear Merlin biting back a retort. He smirked, but there was a part of him that was saddened.
This innate distrust that Merlin clearly had for him was quite the bother. Perhaps had it not been there, Merlin would feel comfortable enough around Mordred to be himself, like the way he was with Arthur. Mordred envied them that relationship, and especially envied Arthur having access to that side of Merlin. Though Merlin sometimes made humorous comments to Mordred, like he might with any friend, more often he restrained himself. And always, always there was a deadly serious undertone to their conversations. If only Merlin would just relax, lay down his guard for just a minute.
It was silly really; Mordred had no particular interest in garnering the friendships of his fellow knights, and yet those had come easily. Much too easily, the fools. Truly it was Emrys that Mordred longed for, and, of course, it was Emrys he could not have. It was such an odd feeling. He didn't wish for Merlin's friendship, but he wished for his company, his companionship. In the way that villains are inexplicably drawn to their respective heroes, so did Mordred feel himself drawn to Merlin. He both loved and hated that Merlin was too intelligent to befriend him quickly, as all the others had done.
Breaking free of his musings, Mordred glanced over at Merlin putting away his garments.
"They'll wrinkle if you leave them folded like that. Have you truly worked in the palace for years?" he asked, his expression as blank as a fresh sheet of parchment.
"…as big a prat as Arthur…" he heard the King's manservant mutter. Mordred's eyes twinkled as his mouth transitioned smoothly into the tiniest of smiles. That was the Merlin he wanted. The perfectly contrary man: a nearly all-powerful warlock that was somehow a young man full of spunk, wit, and gaiety. If only Merlin would allow him more glimpses at that man.
Merlin finished his work and made straight for the door. Mordred watched him leave in silence: by now he was used to Merlin leaving without giving any indication first that the end of their conversation had come.
The door closed quietly. Mordred wandered over to his bed, allowing his thoughts to linger momentarily on the eternally puzzling and fascinating Emrys.
Merlin's hands deftly saddled the horse, muscle memory taking over the simple task. Merlin's gaze drifted over to Sir Mordred, as it often did these days. Merlin felt rather reluctant to ever take his eyes off the suspicious young knight, but that couldn't be avoided. Mordred was currently saddling his own horse, seeming as innocent as ever.
The servant's head snapped up towards his master, an expression of pure innocence on his face.
"Stop daydreaming and finish saddling my horse! The ride is meant to take place today, you know," the King said dryly. Merlin's mouth twitched with a grin.
Finishing up his work, Merlin looked once more in Mordred's direction. This time, the object of his gaze was already staring back at him, and their eyes met. The remnants of his grin vanished as his anxiety levels climbed. Merlin had this reaction every time their eyes met or they stood too close together.
His heart pounding uncomfortably, Merlin couldn't bring himself to look away from the beautiful druid boy- well, man. Mordred stared back, looking much calmer than Merlin felt. It wasn't until Arthur claimed Merlin's attentions again that their eyes broke apart, and it took even longer for Merlin's heart to settle down once more.
Behind him, the door opened and closed, and Mordred's eyes fluttered shut for a moment. There was only one person that it could possibly be. Even now, with his back turned, Mordred could feel the familiar intensity of Merlin's watchful eyes locked upon him.
He was reluctant to admit how much the sensation bothered him, but bother him it did. The feeling had been immediate upon his reunion with Arthur and Merlin, and had not faded since. In fact, it had only intensified over time. It made Mordred feel acutely uncomfortable, but he did his best to hide this fact, and knew that he succeeded.
"Let me help you with that."
The familiar sensation of Merlin's arms reaching around him was enough to keep Mordred silent for just another moment. As his cloak was taken away, he asked, "Shouldn't you be with the King?"
"Why? Concerned about him?" The brittle tone was impossible to miss.
"Why shouldn't I be?" replied Mordred, feigning perfect obliviousness, "He is my King, after all."
"Yes, well, despite appearances to the contrary, Arthur can take care of himself reasonably well in my absence. So long as I'm not gone for more than an hour or so, anyways."
Mordred gave an honest chuckle at this, and Merlin found himself smiling in response. It surprised him, having the ability to elicit a laugh from the enigmatic young man. The smile died quickly as he reminded himself of his dislike of Mordred.
"Doesn't it ever bother you?" Mordred asked quietly, breaking the silence. Merlin's eyebrows rose. The tone was unusually sincere and solemn for Mordred.
"That Arthur has no idea what you do for him."
Merlin stopped in his tracks momentarily. Pulling himself together, he finished collecting the pieces of Mordred's uniform. Mordred turned around, facing Merlin so that they were finally looking directly at one another.
"You've saved his life countless times, protected him from ever coming to harm, and he still treats you like some half-wit servant. It must hurt."
Merlin tensed slightly, but chose not to affirm the statement.
"Arthur treats me like a friend," he said instead.
Mordred's piercing blue eyes softened. "Yes… Yes, he does. It's not difficult to see your affection for one another."
Merlin decided not to make any reply to this claim, and so silence overtook them. After another minute, Mordred spoke again.
"But what about my people, Emrys? Your people. Arthur has been King for years, yet magic is still outlawed, the Druids still hidden in fear. All magical people, forever on the run. How can you bear doing nothing?"
"And what do you think I can do, exactly?" asked Merlin harshly.
"Talk to him! Tell him the truth!" exclaimed Mordred. "You may be the only one able to make the King see reason, to make him repeal the restrictions on magic that plague the kingdom." Mordred searched Merlin's face desperately, but the older man let none of his thoughts show.
"What you're saying is practically treason," voiced Merlin dispassionately. Mordred's expression grew cold.
"I know you, Emrys. I know you desire the same things that I do. There's no reason for such hostility between us. We are very much alike, you and I."
And Merlin walked out of the room.
Merlin answered with a vague 'mmm' as he continued to dress the King.
"There's something I want to ask you."
"Yes?" Merlin replied, focused too much on the task at hand to take note of the tint of discomfort in Arthur's voice.
"I've noticed… lately… that you seem to be…[he cleared his throat]… spending a good deal of time in Sir Mordred's chambers," said Arthur, the words awkwardly forcing their way out of his mouth.
Finally, Merlin's attention snapped to the King, his eyes flying wide open. His fingers were poised frozen in the middle of their work.
"What?" was his immediate response, the single word drenched with his shock. Arthur turned to face his manservant, looking distinctly embarrassed, though he seemed to be making an effort to hide it. In any other situation Merlin might have laughed at the poor attempt, but he currently stood stock-still, his mind blank.
"What do you take me for, Merlin? I'm no dunce, like you! Nearly every time that you, the knights and I return from a hunt or other such occupation, you immediately disappear for a time, and I've seen you going to and coming from Mordred's chambers on a number of those occasions," explained the King with a hint of irritated exasperation (a tone with which Merlin was very familiar).
Merlin finally shook himself from his stupor. Grinning cheekily, he replied, "I must say, Arthur, I'm impressed that you've even noticed. It's quite a change from your usual oblivious nature."
Arthur scowled and whacked Merlin, who emitted a good-natured "Ow!" and rubbed the assaulted shoulder.
"The point is… I need to know if… is there…"
Merlin stared at his fumbling Lord, his brow creased in honest confusion. Arthur made a face. This wouldn't be so damned awkward if Merlin would just understand him and reply! Why must the boy be such an idiot at times?
"Are you two…?" Arthur made some vague gestures with his hands, every muscle in his body tense with anxiety by this point. Finally Merlin understood, Arthur's implications breaking through his barrier of naivety.
"No! No, of course not, never!" he erupted loudly. "How could you… That's… Absolutely not!"
Arthur visibly relaxed, though he rolled his eyes. The shocked outrage and disgust in Merlin's voice were too real to be an act. So his assumptions had been wrong then. He was rather glad of it. That could have been very awkward indeed.
"Alright, alright! I'm sorry. Honestly though, Merlin, you never cease to amaze me with how impossibly thick you are," scolded Arthur fondly. Merlin grimaced, but returned to his earlier task.
"I'm not the one who asked such an idiotic question," he mumbled rebelliously. Arthur's eyebrows rose.
"Excuse me, what was that?"
"Nothing!" responded Merlin brightly. Arthur smirked and Merlin couldn't help smiling as well. The conversation quickly turned to other things, and though a touch of awkwardness lingered between the two men, neither mentioned the uncomfortable conversation they had just shared, and soon it was as if it had never happened at all.
Well, except for the thoughts that now raced through Merlin's mind, even as they spoke.
You'll never understand, Arthur. Mordred's right; you'll never appreciate what I do for you. You assume that my time spent with him is due to something romantic, rather than seeing what it truly is: yet another of my efforts to keep an eye on someone who will one day betray you. You will never know how much I look out for you, how much I protect you. And it does hurt.
"Your Majesty is too kind," Mordred objected politely, his voice soft in the midst of the dining hall's clamor. "It was nothing so spectacular as you make it out to be."
Arthur grinned and shook his head, gesturing his fork towards the knight for emphasis.
"No such thing! It was truly an incredible shot. I tell you, I'm not sure even I could have taken that beast down the way you did."
This time Mordred inclined his head graciously, accepting Arthur's compliments and the additional praises of his fellow knights, all of whom exploded with raucous cheers or saw fit to pound his back in congratulations. Mordred accepted it all with a modest smile.
Observing from across the room, Merlin felt his stomach twist unhappily. Upon joining the ranks of the King's knights, Mordred had quickly bonded with the other men, becoming a favorite even. His silky black hair, pale skin, rounded face, and big blue eyes somehow combined to form a picture of innocence and purity that Arthur and his knights had been all too eager to accept.
Mordred was sure to act the part well. He maintained a quiet, respectful demeanor at all times, and though he was not as boisterous and, well, fun, as most of the other knights, neither was he all seriousness. His lovely smile frequently graced his lips, and he even allowed himself the occasional chuckle. He was, in the eyes of his fellow knights, sweet and endearing. In Merlin's eyes, he was as much a threat to King and kingdom as Morgana had ever been.
Mordred's eyes flashed up and caught Merlin staring at him. Their eyes locked, neither face revealing anything.
He certainly likes to exaggerate, our King, doesn't he? The voice echoed suddenly inside Merlin's head, as it hadn't since the days of Mordred's youth. Taken aback, Merlin tensed and blinked rapidly, as if that would somehow erase the sound. The tiniest of smirks twitched in the corner of Mordred's mouth at Merlin's reaction.
Well? You were there yourself. I did nothing too spectacular.
Merlin understood the implication, heard it in the younger man's tone, and his jaw clenched. His conscience, the side of him that feared and disliked Mordred, felt that he shouldn't reply… but he couldn't help himself. It felt wrong to let the words die in his head without responding in some way.
You didn't use magic, no, if that's what you're saying.
Merlin blinked confusedly. Had Mordred winked at him?
No indeed. Our dear King probably wouldn't take too kindly to that, thought Mordred, a playful twinkle in his eyes. Merlin stiffened at what he perceived as a threat. Noticing this, Mordred's amused expression faded into a blank one. Merlin didn't know if he was only imagining that bit of tension in the young druid's jaw.
I told you, Emrys, you have nothing to fear from me. Merlin wasn't quite sure how he managed to repress a snort. Perhaps it was because he did not find the irony of the situation to be funny at all. I will keep your secret. Why don't you trust me?
Merlin's eyes remained fixed on Mordred's and he saw the burning curiosity there, the intense desire to solve the puzzle.
He thought nothing in return, allowing his cold look to suffice as his answer. A flash of irritated disappointment crossed the knight's face, but then Sir Elyan clapped him on the shoulder, and his careful mask immediately slid back into place.
The two sorcerers broke eye contact as Mordred quickly entered into conversation with Gwen's brother. He did not speak to Merlin for the remainder of the evening.
Mordred made his way back to his chambers, having just escorted a very drunken Sir Gwaine back to his room with Elyan's help. His boots clicked against the stone floors, the only sound in the otherwise silent hallway.
The door creaked as he opened it, and shut quietly behind him. The knight paced forward towards the bed- and stopped. A small smile lit his face.
Merlin emerged from the shadows of the wall, as if he'd melted out of the stones themselves. Mordred couldn't help admiring such understated grace. He turned to face his visitor.
"Why did you speak to me tonight?" Merlin asked bluntly.
"I didn't realize it was such a crime," was Mordred's light reply.
Merlin stepped closer to the figure of his nightmares, his heart rate elevating as he did so, just as it always did. It made Merlin feel weak, but how could he not fear the man destined to bring about Arthur's downfall? The man who confused him beyond all reckoning and reason. The vision of Arthur's death at Mordred's hands should have been enough to forever convince the warlock of Mordred's evil nature; and yet, Merlin felt lost.
Why had Mordred saved Arthur's life from Morgana? What could he possibly gain? Was this all a set up? What were his motivations?
It didn't help of course that Merlin could never grasp Mordred's thoughts; his disguise was too perfect. It was impossible for Merlin to know what was really going on behind those crystal blue eyes.
"You never did answer me, Emrys," said Mordred softly, his voice interrupting Merlin's thoughts. Merlin's eyes flashed quickly to the other man's. "Why do you distrust me so?"
Quiet enveloped the room as Merlin blinked slowly, mentally forming his reply. Just as Mordred's skin began to prickle with annoyance at the wait, Merlin calmly answered, "I never said I did." Rage flamed up in Mordred's eyes and his mask vanished, replaced with an angry snarl.
"Dammit, Emrys!" Merlin gave a start at Mordred's unexpected outburst. It pleased Mordred to see the fear—the fear that normally the servant-boy managed to conceal—flooding into Merlin's eyes.
"You've never trusted me, never!" he seethed. "You almost let me die when I was a little boy. You nearly betrayed me, betrayed Arthur! And now… Ever since we were reunited all you've done is watch me. Your eyes on me constantly, I can feel them, always burning into me. Even after I gave you bread. Even after I saved Arthur's life, and he made me a knight. Your gaze stays fixed on me, always, a presence I can't ignore, not ever! Why, Emrys? What fuels this fear of me that causes you to distrust my presence this way? What great wrong have I done you?"
Merlin was stunned by the torrent of passionate words bursting forth from the knight. When Mordred ceased, he glared expectantly at Merlin, his white fists clenched with barely restrained fury, his muscles trembling.
"You know who I am and you know yourself," answered Merlin harshly, his voice even though his heartbeat was not. "I wager you can make a fairly good guess."
"What does that mean?" yelled Mordred. His eyes flashed and an unseen power hurled Merlin against the wall with impressive force. Merlin's face crinkled at the sudden pain but he quickly straightened back up, only to be pinned firmly in place against the wall by Mordred's arm shoved against his throat. Neither was that the only force keeping Merlin in place: he could feel magic shoving against him.
"Don't you understand, Emrys?" The druid's voice came out as a strangled whisper, betraying hints of anger and pain. "We should be working together, not fighting one another. You are the only of my kind here, as I am the only of yours. Only I can ever understand you. Why can we not rely on each other, talk openly with one another? Your misplaced distrust of me is blinding you from what we should be.
"I am one of your people, Emrys. How can you abandon me to suffer alone, cut off from everything that is known to me, when you yourself are all I need? This isolation will kill me. I can never belong with these people; only with you do I belong. And yet you seem perfectly content to let me suffer in my unavoidable separation, rather than join with me. Just think, Emrys, how it could be! Why can you not see it?"
A rough, choking sound emitted itself from Merlin's throat. Mordred suddenly became aware of what he was doing and his arm quickly retracted, the bonds of magic dissipating simultaneously.
Merlin bent over, a hand pressed against the wall to steady himself, coughing loudly. Mordred grimaced at the harsh, scratchy quality of the sounds; he felt as though he should apologize. He scowled instead. Emrys deserved no apology, and he damn well wouldn't get one!
"Get out," he sneered. Merlin's blue eyes locked briefly with Mordred's, and the glance was charged with an intensity that nearly sent Mordred stumbling backwards. But then the moment was gone, and Merlin was obliging him by leaving.
Merlin's head snapped up. "Yes?"
Gaius looked concerned.
"You've hardly touched your food."
Merlin looked down and saw that Gaius was right, his bowl was still full.
"What's troubling you, Merlin?"
Forcing a smile onto his face, Merlin said, "Nothing. I was just distracted, sorry, Gaius."
"With what?" was the skeptical reply.
"With the, um… tournament coming up! Lots of preparations. Arthur's loading me down with jobs. Not that he doesn't always, of course."
The physician still looked unconvinced.
"Are you sure that's all it is?"
"Mhmm! In fact, I've got to go to my room now, sort a few details out. Thanks for the stew though, it was great." With that, Merlin was bounding away, up the steps to his bedroom.
"But you barely had any!" Gaius cried out- but it was in vain. The door had already slammed shut behind his (unofficially) adoptive son.
Merlin sank down onto his bed with a sigh. He hated lying to Gaius, and he didn't even really know why he was doing it. He rarely hid anything from Gaius anymore, not even his suspicions about Mordred. But this was something different. This wasn't any increased suspicion of Mordred's ill intent, but rather a sense of compassion and guilt that Mordred had stirred up within him.
Merlin told himself that it ought to be absurd, allowing himself to feel anything for the man destined to kill Arthur, but he couldn't force his feelings to change. So much of what Mordred had said felt all too familiar.
Only I can ever understand you… I can never belong with these people… suffer in my unavoidable separation…
It rang so true. Merlin had dealt with that same separation for many years now: all his life, in truth. It was a terrible burden, to be so different, to have a side of you that no one could ever even see, much less comprehend. And Merlin at least had at various times had the companionship of his mother, Will, Gaius, and Lancelot, all of whom knew his secret. But Mordred truly had no one. Not anymore. Merlin doubted that he himself could bear such a fate.
The troubled young warlock remained in bed for the rest of the evening, his mind never at rest. Thoughts of Mordred kept him awake late into the night. What should he be feeling? How should he act?
This wasn't even a matter of merely his own feelings holding him back; Merlin was certain that the druid disliked him with equal fervor. He could still remember what Mordred had said to him, those many years ago… So then why did Mordred now seem to be seeking Merlin's company? It was all too confusing.
Merlin's eyes shot open in surprise. Had he only imagined it?
No, there it was again. Mordred was trying to speak with him. He considered answering, but realized that what he needed was time to think, alone, with no interruptions from anyone, least of all the subject of his broodings.
The whispered name was repeated several times, each one yearning for Merlin's attention. Merlin wished he could block out the whispers, but he at least managed to restrain from responding, and finally they faded away.
Relieved, Merlin returned to his thoughts, comforted by the night's silence.
A day had passed. Two days. Three, four, five, six, a whole week. Merlin and Mordred hadn't exchanged any words—verbal or nonverbal—since the night of Mordred's outburst. Merlin had thus far come to no decision on how to proceed with Mordred, and so he distanced himself for the time being, choosing to observe the potential threat from afar. To his surprise, and great chagrin, Merlin realized that he missed the younger man's company.
With a week gone by, it struck Merlin how, in their private time together, Mordred had shown Merlin a whole different side of him than the one that the knights knew. He'd already been aware of this, but it had never been so apparent as it was currently, now that he had been deprived of that interaction.
While his eyes habitually tailed Mordred's movements, Merlin often found himself feeling sad. When Mordred presented his modest smile, Merlin felt sorry for the other knights that they never saw his true smile, the one with mischief in its curves. When Mordred gave a polite chuckle, Merlin wished that they could also hear his quiet laugh, the one reminiscent of running water.
Merlin was beyond stunned at these thoughts. They made no sense! Merlin had never sought out Mordred's company for pleasure, he had done so to keep an eye on him. Simply being in the same vicinity as Camelot's youngest knight was enough to send waves of fear shooting through his veins. And yet… only now was he admitting to himself that there had been another facet to their relationship. Because despite his original intentions, Merlin had, over time, come to appreciate Mordred's person.
Hiding beneath Merlin's fear and distrust were traitorous feelings, feelings that reveled in Mordred's laugh and delighted in the twinkle in his eyes. Mordred was, in a word, alluring. So much power, so much intensity, all wrapped up in this beautiful, mysterious young druid.
Merlin sat across from his mentor at the dinner table. Gaius could tell that something was on Merlin's mind, but he chose not to pry.
"Gaius…" the younger man began hesitantly, "Do you think that… a person can change their destiny?" Gaius fixed his apprentice with a solemn look, contemplating his question.
"Destiny is a powerful force, Merlin; I'm sure I cannot tell you for certain what is possible and what is not. I do know, however, that destiny is not something to be trifled with. If someone were to attempt to change their destiny, to stray from the path laid before them, well… then I would tell them to be very, very cautious." Gaius raised an eyebrow and Merlin nodded, acknowledging that he had heard and understood Gaius' warning.
When Merlin didn't choose to take the conversation any further, Gaius took it upon himself to ask, rather perceptively, "This is about Mordred, isn't it?" Merlin continued to eat normally, but a flick of his eyes gave him away. Gaius released a pent-up sigh. Merlin had spent so much time of late fretting over Arthur's newest addition to the knights of Camelot, and it worried Gaius.
"Whatever it is that you're planning, Merlin, I do hope it's safe. Please consider my words very carefully."
Merlin nodded. "I will, Gaius. And thank you. For everything."
Gaius smiled appreciatively. Soon after, Merlin cleared the dishes away and retired to his bedroom, leaving Gaius alone to ponder the effects of tampering with destiny. Finding in himself a thirst for more knowledge on the subject, Gaius put on his reading glasses and began scouring his books for any that might prove fruitful.
Mordred lay uncomfortably in his bed, staring up into the darkness above. His limbs had the oddest desire to move, twitch, scratch, do anything but lie still. But lie still he did. It was always useful to practice one's self-control.
Mordred had been doing that a lot lately. Merlin had now gone an entire week without speaking to him. Mordred was sadly not surprised by how much the loss affected him. He detested these feelings, feelings of desire and helplessness, but there was little to be done. Merlin had managed to make himself an irreplaceable part of Mordred's life, without even bothering to ask for Mordred's consent first.
Because of this, the last week had been a peculiar kind of torment for the druid. He felt utterly alone; no one else knew him, they didn't have an inkling of who Mordred truly was.
Unlike Merlin. Merlin knew. It might seem odd that Mordred would favor the company of one who openly distrusted and disliked him, but Mordred would always greatly prefer this to the affections of those who knew nothing of him. The biting honesty of Merlin's attitude towards him was a refreshing relief. There was no reason to hide behind any pretenses.
And Merlin himself was a treat. His dry sense of humor had brightened Mordred's days, as had his goofy smile and boyish charms. As a matter of fact, Mordred even enjoyed Merlin's distrust of him in some capacity. While he didn't appreciate the feeling of being under constant surveillance, the tense relationship that Merlin had established between them had created a delightful feeling of electricity whenever the two men stood in the same room. It excited Mordred, the way that his body reacted to Merlin's presence. Even if the reaction was purely out of anxiety. It felt strangely good.
But now, with Merlin keeping away, he was alone and very little held interest for him. The monotony increased with each new day, an endless cycle of training, hunting, scouting… And, of course, the same blind, jabbering fools surrounded him day after day.
He wanted Merlin back.
As if a fairy godmother had heard his wish and decided to grant it, Mordred suddenly heard a voice in his head.
Mordred sat up slowly, a smile stretching across his features.
Still awake then?
Obviously. Is there something you need? There was a pause in the flow of conversation, and Mordred's brow drew together as he wondered what could be making Merlin hesitate.
May I come to your rooms? the other voice asked finally. Mordred's eyebrows went up at the request, but he assented. Merlin's voice disappeared and Mordred sat patiently waiting for the warlock to make his way.
A few minutes later the door creaked open, admitting the very person Mordred was expecting. He rose to meet his nighttime visitor.
"I'm… sorry," said Merlin immediately, skipping all greetings and pleasantries. Mordred was too taken aback by this unforeseen event to speak. "I'm sorry that I nearly turned my back and let you get caught when you were a child. I'm sorry that I have always found it difficult to trust you. And I'm sorry that I left you to isolation. I know what that kind of separation feels like, and I shouldn't have abandoned you to it, not when I had the power to do something."
"I… I don't understand," Mordred replied immediately, his features still blank with shock.
"I am the same as you. I'm alone as well, and you were right. We are all that we've got here. Just the two of us. I'm tired of being alone. It would be… nice to have someone to talk to."
"But how can you do that if you don't trust me?" asked Mordred confusedly.
"Well, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, or at least that's what Gaius tells me," returned Merlin, a grin beginning to replace his serious expression. "And Arthur warned me that looks can be deceiving. He trusts you, you know. Arthur."
Merlin watched carefully, but Mordred didn't flinch, not the smallest twinge to betray any hidden guilt. Instead he merely smiled and nodded his head.
"I should hope so, and I am glad he does. It will be a sad day when Camelot can no longer depend upon the trustworthiness of her knights."
"I agree," murmured Arthur's manservant.
"Well then…" said Mordred brightly. His lips curled into a delicate smile. "Where shall we begin?"
The two men gladly, if hesitantly, entered into a conversation and the start of a new relationship.
It did not, however, escape Merlin's notice that Mordred had not in fact accepted his apologies, just as it did not escape Mordred's notice that Merlin had not actually offered his trust.