Disclaimer: Not my characters. Yet again I should be doing work but they've abducted me briefly.
A/N: Hello everyone! A quick reveal one shot from 5x03, to be fair this isn't supposed to be slashy, but the show is so slashtastic right now that anything borne from it is going to have some intriguing subtext ahahaa.
Uther's Final Gift
"Merlin has magic."
He caught the last word as his father dissolved into nothingness- sharp, accusatory- the sound from the horn and the spirit world not quick enough to envelop what had been spoken. The grey dust of his father glittered into the air leaving the King and his manservant stood face to face.
His father's last gift to him. A truth so crushing. A truth about trust.
Merlin looked like a deer caught in a trap, pinned up against the wood. Arthur was losing grip on his emotions, a man normally shaded with bravado with tears brimming up in his eyes. He'd nearly lost Merlin. It still felt like he had.
He wanted to believe his father's words as a malicious lie, a final attempt to destroy him. But the look on Merlin's face said it all. The manservant was all but flinching under his gaze.
"Arthur, I. . ."
Merlin's words fell dead in his mouth; Arthur's eyes shining. He didn't move; Merlin couldn't.
"Arthur. . ."
The King's eyes continued to pierce his own. Broken. A stranger.
"Can you. . ." Merlin's gaze dropped to the floor. He couldn't look at him; couldn't continue.
"Do it yourself."
Merlin's head shot back up, Arthur's voice edged with steel, unmoving.
"Arthur. . . please-"
"I said. . . do it yourself." Arthur took a few menacing steps forward and Merlin released a desperate, shaky breath as tears began filling his own eyes.
It felt like an eternity; Arthur felt the world shift as Merlin reluctantly whispered something under his breath and the spears disconnected from the door, thumping to the ground. His manservant slumped down a little in defeat. Shame and silence fell over them like a snowfall, blinding and freezing them.
Merlin couldn't bear to look at the disappointment on his friend's face.
A beat, a flame flickered, and everything caught up with Arthur. His pupils dilated, betrayal bursting up in him; Merlin felt the air pushed from his lungs as he saw Arthur crack.
"How could you do this to me." His voice was low, angry, unquestioning.
Their gazes were fixed. Mere metres felt like miles apart.
"Arthur I'm sorry, I'm sorry. . ."
"I trusted you Merlin. For all these years I trusted you."
Merlin's voice shook in panic, "A-Arthur it's still me, please-"
"Why couldn't you tell me? Have you just hated me all this time!? Dreamt of me dying?! Bleeding into the ground-"
Arthur blinked back his tears furiously; his knuckles clenched white around the horn, shaking with the effort of restraint. Their words were desperate, overlapping.
"Arthur I would never hurt you and you know that, please-"
"-Why didn't you just tell me-"
"You're my friend, Arthur. You're my truest friend in this world-"
"-I don't know you Merlin, we've been through it all together and I don't even KNOW YOU!"
"You do Arthur. . . Please it's me. It's me. . ." He slowly started to move towards the King, his breath hiccoughing.
"You hid this from me for years. After every thought and feeling I've shared with you. . . and you just lied to me. You lied to me for ten years-"
"Please stop Arthur. . ." Merlin was close now, trying to touch the bend of his elbow. Arthur shrugged him off aggressively, stepping back.
"Go on then STOP ME!" The King roared, grabbing him by the lapels and shoving him into the stone wall with a crunch. Merlin cried out in pain, twisting Arthur's red sleeves in his hands, trying to loosen the bigger man's grip. He would not rise to the challenge; he would not use his magic.
Merlin's lip quivered, Arthur's voice still echoing around the corridors. His breathing jerked; his voice barely a whisper, "I can't hurt you Arthur."
A tear ran down the side of his face. A perfect blend of truth and lie in that one line.
Arthur held his gaze, the King looking like a young prince again, lost and scared in the cerulean. He released Merlin as if he'd been burnt, stepping back, his muscles shaking. Merlin slid down the floor, his breathing heavy and pained.
They both realised who Arthur had nearly become in that moment.
"Uther wants this, Arthur. . . He wants you to become him. He tried to kill Gwen, and he wants me gone. He wants you alone and angry at the world. . . you're not your father, Arthur. . . You're not him . .."
Arthur didn't respond. He felt undone. The King walked away, swiping at his cheek and leaving his manservant alone.
He didn't know how long he stood staring out of his window, the knights in their red cloth sweeping over the stone cobbles.
He felt useless. Broken. Like a man buried alive punching and kicking at the box imprisoning him, suffocating under the weight of his shame. He was a disgrace to his father, Merlin had never trusted him. . . he was no king.
He was alone. He just hadn't realised it. And he blamed himself.
He didn't care about the magic.
All he wanted was for his manservant to believe in him. Merlin would come out with things so perfectly apt and wise that what Arthur wanted more than anything was his servant's approval. Just because Merlin was the best of them; out of every knight, councilman and nobleman in his court- the scruffy, gawky servant was the one that Arthur came back to.
He would never tell him that of course. But Arthur had so much faith in him, and it was clear that Merlin had so little in him. He was ashamed that Merlin felt he couldn't tell him.
Arthur thought he'd changed; become a better person. His display earlier was something he thought had died not long after Merlin had become a part of his life, and been buried with his father's body.
Arthur heard his bedroom door creep open, his heart jumping in his throat. Merlin was going to leave. His only true friend in this world would be gone. . . and he could not bear that he would be leaving on these terms, leaving Camelot forever.
And Arthur, in his arrogance and pride would not stop him. Because he was not as good as Merlin.
The King didn't turn around. Didn't react as he heard Merlin move across the room and stand somewhere near the washed stone pillars, not daring to come any closer. His voice was tired, meek.
"I can't stop it."
Arthur's eyes were still fixed outside, the glowing night sky stretching on forever.
"It's something I was born with. . . I'd stop it if I could. . . but I can't."
He kept talking, unperturbed by Arthur's silence. Arthur couldn't say goodbye to him. Couldn't force himself to say that word.
"Ever since coming to Camelot, I've been told many things about destiny and. . . fate. . . most of which include you. It's written everywhere. . . in the stars. . . the scriptures. . . I need my magic to help you become the king you are meant to be. . . I have told you many times that I would die at your side, and I will stay and do this if you want me to Arthur. I trust you with my life. I always have."
"But not with your secrets. Not with who you are." Arthur's voice was blunt, almost unforgiving.
Merlin gulped, closing his eyes for a second, "I should have told you, a long time ago. And I know I should have. Secrets grow old and rotten inside you if hidden for too long. I've had this one pressing on me for a decade, hoping I'd one day have the strength to confess it to you. It gets worse, the longer you leave it, like a sickness spreading inside you. A part of me wasn't ready to give up what we'd built, and I couldn't burden you with that."
"You were scared." A statement. Not a question.
"Yes. I'm strong in many ways you are not aware of, but I am a coward in many more ways too. I know what the laws are Arthur. . . and I couldn't put you in that position. . ."
"I could have changed them." Arthur met Merlin's gaze briefly. The manservant saw so much sorrow; he wanted to burn it with hope.
Merlin let out half a breath, "You'd do that?" his voice lightened a little.
Arthur nearly pouted, an attempt to keep it blasé; his arms folded as he looked down briefly at his boots, "If it's in Camelot's best interests."
Merlin merely nodded, a small smile threatening to break across his face. He knew what he meant. He'd do it for Merlin.
"Are you going to show me then?" Arthur's voice was its usual strong tone, yet it was laced with uncertainty. . . fear.
"What would you like to see?"
Arthur gave a half shrug as he slouched against the wall facing Merlin, trying not to look too bothered either way. Keep a tiny semblance of his tough façade in tact.
Merlin let him, biting the inside of his cheek in contemplation. His eyes began to gleam; swooping one arm upwards, flames soaring from him which landed in the air as tiny fiery figures.
The two of them.
Arthur's eyes became transfixed, despite his arms defensively wrapped across his chest- his gaze was like a child seeing the world for the first time. Fear and inquisition in equal measure; he was not a boy now though and his father's leg was not here to hide behind. Or his voice to whisper about the darkness of sorcery.
It showed Merlin lying in bed, a tiny ball of blue flame floating from him to Arthur, the tiny fiery man scrambling through the air between fizzling spiders. The blue ball morphed and roared- the dragon that attacked Camelot, fire searing around the ceiling; the young Prince falling and Merlin sending the beast away. A woman rising from water of white flames, his sword in her hand. . . the young wizard sealing the sword in a stone that Arthur would later take it from. Spits of fire hit the stone floor as the King of flames extracted it, circled by his knights of fire as red as their cloaks. Arthur's eyes fell briefly to Merlin, gracefully sculpting and playing with the fire in his hands as if it were nothing but feathers on the wind.
He watched the flames dance through their years. The Isle of the Blessed. . . Sigan. . . The last Dragonlord. . . The Eye of the Phoenix. . .Morgana. . . the list went on. He watched the flames die in his servant's hands, as if his palms were made of water.
Merlin stood, swaying slightly, fidgeting with his bony fingers. The human in the madness. "Our stories aren't just the ones that will live on through the ages, Arthur." He took a few steady steps forward, only another step between them, "But the ones that only we will remember."
Arthur caught a final flame transforming in the corner of his eye; their two horses galloping through the air, their hooves creating sparks with each step.
The riders' laughter echoed in the back of his ears. The light insults; the long journeys; the unspoken bond.
"It's beautiful." Arthur stated, almost unsurprised as the fire spiraled in the air into nothing.
"Magic can be beautiful." Merlin agreed, his sight still fixed to the spot where the flame died.
"It can destroy too."
Merlin nodded wistfully, "Yes it can."
The manservant turned to see Arthur already looking at him, the older man gulped a pause that was growing out from their shared fate. Arthur could feel it, and his words were heavy, full of certainty, "I'm not my father."
Merlin smiled softly, "No, Arthur, you're not."
A/N: . . . and then they have loads of sex. Seriously, I'm so on the Merthur boat now it's unbelievable. The chemistry in the first few episodes has been off the charts. Anyhooooo, please review if you have a mini mo. *Scarpers to pile of work* Minx x