Well this will be the last chapter for this fanfic. I've have a few people make comments about following this all the way through to the end of the series but I don't know if I will have the time. Maybe a few weeks down the road I'll start on a longer one that will follow all the way through but for now I leave you with this conclusion. Enjoy!
Arthur was storming through the castle without realizing it. Even the knights he encountered were skidding out of his way and by the time he finally realized that he was heading back to his rooms, he turned around angrily because that is where Guinevere would be. The thought of his wife darkened his thoughts even more and he found he needed somewhere else to go, so he set about finding a wing or room that would be secluded enough to leave him to his thoughts. Picking his way through the castle he found himself in Morgana's old room, a room that hadn't been touched in five years. No one would think to look for him here, he knew he couldn't avoid his responsibilities for too long but he needed time to refocus and to figure out what the hell he was going to do with his frie…servant. He wasn't sure if he could think of Merlin as a friend at this point, even though he's your best friend that stupid voice in the back of his mind reminded him. He let himself into the room, locking it behind him and sitting heavily on the bed, he put his head in his hands, rubbing his burning eyes with the heel of his hands hoping to ward off the headache he knew was building the back of his brain.
The longer Arthur sat there, shoulders hunched, eyes burning, the more confusing his thoughts became, if that was even possible. The fact remained that Merlin had magic, and sorcerers are evil, bent only on destruction, a voice in his head, that sounded oddly like his father reminded him. But he also saved your life, the more forgiving part of his brain, which strangely enough sounded like his own voice, pointed out. As much as he wanted to listen to what he had been taught since he was a child, Merlin had disproven all of that. He had never once threatened Arthur's life and many times he had put himself in danger to ensure the King was not injured. His own voice was gaining ground when he remembered he was not his father. He had told that to too many people to go back on it now. Merlin had never done anything to warrant his suspicions; maybe it was time he showed the same trust he had seen Merlin show him.
Still he could not face Merlin, to make sure this was not just some elaborate trick, his father talking again. Maybe that voice would not be as easy to get rid of as previously thought. However, he did feel the pain in his head starting to recede a bit, without the aid of the heels of his hands. It was as this feeling of pain retreated, he looked up and realized how dark it had become outside. It was well past the end of the day and Arthur knew he would have to sort out the events of today tomorrow but first he needed to sleep, maybe then he could work through the thoughts still plaguing his mind.
Standing up, he walked out of the room toward his own. He knew he would have to share a bed with Guinevere but to be honest, that was the least of his problems at this point, there was no way she would try to kill him in his sleep, that much he knew. Not that that was a particularly comforting thought but one that would allow him to sleep slightly easier. He would have to make sure none of this was mentioned to her when he spoke with her the next day.
As he crawled into bed next to his bewitched wife, he could not help but think everything had gone horribly wrong. Thankfully, Guinevere had not woken so at least he didn't have to deal with her false concern for himself or Merlin.
Gwaine stayed with Merlin for the rest of the day, trying to keep him distracted and for the most part it succeeded. He told the wounded warlock bar stories about large women, heavy drinking, and numerous fights. He came up with multiple ways Merlin's magic could be combined with many items to lead to increasingly crazy pranks, one of which involved a donkey, the king's hunting dogs, and chainmail. Merlin wasn't completely sure where he fit into that one but he let Gwaine chatter on unimpeded. The talking helped to keep his mind off the king.
It was well after sunset that Gaius chased the knight out of the room. As much as he knew Merlin would need the distraction, he also needed the rest and his ward's eyes had been drooping for the better part of the evening.
"I'll be back as soon as the patrol reports in tomorrow." With that the knight bound out of the room, probably off to the tavern so he would have some crazy story to tell his friend.
"Merlin, you should get some rest so your body can finish healing. I can give you something to help you sleep if you want."
His ward looked up at him and he could see the torment in the tired eyes, "It's alright Gaius, I think I'll just try and get some sleep." Lying back on the patient bed he closed his eyes but he was well aware sleep would be elusive.
Arthur spent the next day in a haze. The headache that had been slightly reduced the day before had come back with a vengeance and he was not in the mood to deal with any of the problems that were quickly finding themselves on his agenda. He had to deal with the Sarrum and the assassin, both of whom were currently sitting in the dungeon to await judgment. The assassin would be dead before the end of the day, regardless of how he felt about Merlin's magic, the killer had tried to kill the king and had almost killed a good man, oddly enough this admission seemed to reduce the headache, and he would die. Now, Arthur had to figure out what to do with the king, maybe freedom in exchange for information and a treaty? He couldn't very well kill the man and assume that his kingdom would not attack Camelot, so the treaty might be the safest solution. After all, he had known the Sarrum's reputation before agreeing to this entire debacle.
The day was filled with what normally would have been mind-numbing council sessions, made entertaining by the looks Merlin used to throw him throughout the proceedings. Of course, this thought was what kept the sessions from being mind-numbing; in fact he would actually kill for that at this point. He knew he could sort out all of these thoughts by simply talking to the man but he was afraid. Uther's voice in the back of his head was still reminding him this could all have been a trick that Merlin was in. Maybe he was working with Guinevere, maybe he enchanted her! But he couldn't figure out why Morgana would have poisoned Merlin if he were working with them. Unless it had all been part of the plan to get Arthur out of the castle so Guinevere could set up the meeting with the Sarrum without being discovered. However, that just seemed too far-fetched, again he could solve this entire thing by talking to Merlin. He just didn't know what would happen if it turned out to be true and the one person he thought was a friend had been playing him for longer than any of the other betrayers through the years. He had already betrayed him by lying to him about the magic, what if everything about their friendship had been a lie? He wasn't sure if he could take that. He realized that one of the council members had been asking him a question and then realized that he had been lost to his own thoughts for the better part of the meeting. Forcing himself to refocus he asked for the question to be repeated and tried to pay attention this time.
The rest of the meeting went by with less distraction, although it took a lot of effort to keep it that way. The only thing he had decided was that he could not yet face his…manservant. Not yet. The problem was this left Merlin to stew in his fear and depression, not something healthy for a man who had almost died twice in as many days.
If it was possible, Merlin was more tired than he was when he fell asleep. His dreams had been haunted by images of Arthur's face and of the executioner's block or the pyre erected in the middle of the courtyard. All of this was circled by Arthur's accusing words about trust and betrayal. None of it made for a restful night. So when Gaius woke up that morning he found Merlin with deep bags under his eyes staring off into nothing. If Arthur didn't come around today, the old physician was afraid he might have to drag him to the room himself. But for now he had to try to get the warlock to eat something, maybe he could slip a sleeping potion in with the food so he could get some rest.
Arthur gain found himself wandering though the castle. The meetings all finished for the day and the executioner's ax satiated for now. He was loath to run into Guinevere or any of the other council members, preferring to be alone. He had to work out what to do with Merlin, it was consuming too many of his thoughts and he could not afford to ignore his council like he had done today. This had to be resolved soon but that meant facing something he wasn't sure he knew how to deal with.
What are you going to do with him? He asked himself. Magic, in any form, is punishable by death. Uther's voice was the first to respond to that question. The more this went on, Arthur was beginning to worry that he was going crazy. But this is Merlin, could you watch him be executed? His voice was back. Maybe he was going crazy. At least he wasn't talking out loud to himself. But it didn't matter; he knew how to answer this question. He could never watch Merlin killed, the thought made him sick. He had been the one to plead with Gaius to use magic to save his life. He could never kill him. Exile maybe, the stocks for being stupid enough to step in front of a bolt, but never the noose or the ax. No amount of magic negated the fact that Merlin had saved his life.
That took his thoughts turned in a different direction, how many times has he used magic to save your life? If Merlin could use that much magic while he was lying on his deathbed, he had to be a strong sorcerer, so what else had he done throughout the time they had been together? That was when the king started to think back on all those suddenly dropped swords, saddles that just happened to break, mythical creatures that could only be killed through magical means unless of course you were Prince Arthur, and a certain clumsy manservant coming out of every fight relatively unscathed and it started to make sense. Merlin had been using magic since they had met and never once he it been used to harm him; in fact it had only even been used to save his life. Not that he really expected anything different from his ridiculously loyal friend, yes in the midst of his thoughts he allowed that one to slip through his guard. But if that was the case, why didn't Merlin just change the direction of the bolt with magic? Why put himself in the position of being hit when he could have, at least Arthur assumed he could have, stopped the bolt with a few words?
His head snapped up and he realized he needed to talk with his friend. Now.
Merlin was sitting at the table with Gaius looking positively miserable, the weight of his secret hanging over his head more than ever, was your secret his pesky voice decided to remind him. He thoughts were a jumbled confusion of consequences. His head was pounding and the fact that he hadn't slept in two days was not helping the headache in anyway. He knew he should drag himself up to his room and at least lay down, knew he must have looked terrible, there was still blood on his trousers but he couldn't bring himself to care. Any noise in the hall made him jump; worried it would be the palace guards come to arrest him for sorcery. After a night and day of sitting in the main room of the house concocting ever more disturbing ways for being arrested and executed, the last thing he expected was for the king to come bursting into the room without a collection of guards and a rather ridiculous and rushed question on his lips.
The door practically shook off the hinges with the force of the shove and as soon as Gaius realized who it was, he was moving off in the direction of anywhere but where the two ludicrous boys were.
"Could you have stopped that arrow with magic?"
"Wh…what?" Merlin was shocked; this was not how he expected this conversation to start. If he was being honest, he wasn't even really expected a conversation.
"Could. You. Have stopped. That arrow. With magic?"
"…yes, I could have but it would have been obvious." The last bit was a quick confession, but it didn't stop Arthur from trying to interrupt.
"Then why didn't you?"
"Merlin, you were not shot in the head and you haven't been to the tavern in at least a week so there's no ale in your ears, you heard my question, answer it."
He looked ashamed for a moment, Arthur noticed he dropped his eyes before he answered quietly, "If I had used it at the signing, someone would have seen me. It wasn't something that could have been written off as bad aim because I would have needed to change the direction of the shot…." He went to continue but Arthur cut him off, anger and frustration in his voice.
"So you thought it was a better idea to put yourself in the way of the bolt?" Astonishment laced his voice.
"I couldn't let you be killed." Arthur stood in stunned silence for a moment, of course he knew Merlin would say something like this, he knew his…friend…could never, would never hurt him. He just, up until this point, had trouble reconciling this kind of selflessness, honor, and goodness out of someone who, according to everything he had been raised to believe, should be attempting to kill him and aiding in any attempt on his life.
Merlin did not take his silence well, interpreting his conflict as trying to figure out what to do with the warlock next, so he ventured a question,
"What would you have done if you had seen me use it? If I had used it and not been injured."
This question was something Arthur had been wrestling with the entire time he had stayed away from his friend. And he still could not say he had an answer, "I…I don't know…but I can tell you, I would not, am not, able to sentence you to anything worse than the stocks for the stupidity of putting yourself in front of a bolt."
Merlin's downcast eyes snapped to his, hope shinning out from behind the crystal blue because of his refusal to acknowledge the magic, but Merlin heard the implication, "I never wanted you to have to make a decision about it. I've always hidden it, that's why I couldn't change the bolt with magic."
Confusion was written over Arthur's face, "That was your worry. You weren't worried about the loss of your head, you were worried about me needing to making a decision?"
Embarrassment colored Merlin's features and again he diverted his eyes, as he whispered, "My magic has always been for you Arthur, only for you."
"Merlin…" Arthur softened his tone, letting the warlock know the embarrassment was unwarranted. "Look at me please," At the nicety Merlin looked back up and Arthur could tell the man was on the verge of tears, the unshed droplets of water barely being held back. "Merlin, I don't care. I was angry and for that I am sorry. I should have never been angry about the magic; I was the one that told Gaius to use it to save you. I just was so hurt because you kept it from me. I know some of the things you have done for me now. I'm beginning to understand what you've had to sacrifice and when you're feeling better," Arthur made sure to stress this because he had noticed how haggard his friend looked when he stormed in, "we'll be having a long chat about all the other secret magical things I'm guessing you've done."
Merlin could not believe what he was hearing, no cell, no pyre, and no noose, just acceptance from his friend. And at that point as Merlin looked at Arthur, actually looked at him he realized how long he had been waiting for, and to be honest, dreading, this moment. And as the tears began to track down his face, he accepted that for the first time in his life he could be completely himself, and now maybe, just maybe he had the ability to overcome the horrendous prophecy that had so many times been revealed to him.
"Just one more thing…" Arthur trailed off as Merlin looked up at him almost hesitantly.
"Why come to Camelot if you knew you were going to practice magic?" To be honest, this was the question he figured Arthur would lead with, if he were in a question-asking mood of course.
"It was never a choice, I was born this way. I could move objects around my house before I could walk, if anything I spent more time figuring out how to control it to keep it hidden than I ever did figuring out how to use it for any purpose."
"Born with it…you mean, this is not something you can just forget or stop using." Arthur had never once considered that the people who had been executed for magic might have had no choice in how they were born. The fact that people as innocent as Merlin might have been killed made him sick, they should never have been persecuted for the way they were born. Merlin continued, oblivious to Arthur's moral dilemma.
"Nope, in fact, I've tried. But the more I ignore it the harder it becomes to control. When I was younger it revolved around emotion. Mum always had to keep me calm because if I had a fit things would fly around the room." He smiled to himself, lost in the memory. His mother had told him of all the times this had happened and as he got older and more in control, it became something they could laugh about.
Arthur's thoughts however had taken a slightly more depressing turn. He was thinking back to all the people who had been killed. He had seen men, women, and even on some occasions young children executed, how many of them had been like Merlin? Condemned for what they could not control? Then he began to think of all the times he had demeaned magic in Merlin's presence and he felt suddenly very guilty.
"I'm sorry…" Arthur blurted it out; there was really no thinking behind it other than the fact that his guilty thoughts had suddenly become spoken.
Merlin gave him a deadpanned expression. His first thought was that Arthur would continue that statement with …but I'm going to have to arrest you now. But when the King didn't say anything else Merlin broke the silence.
"Wh…what? Arthur why are you apologizing?" Seeing the scared look on the drawn face, Arthur rushed to continue.
"For all the times I've belittled magic, belittled you." Merlin visibly relaxed so he continued. "I'm assuming I would have been dead multiple times over if it had not been for your magic." Merlin slowly nodded his head in the affirmative and Arthur went on. "I could never have done what you have. I could never have listened to someone doubt who I am, tell me I am evil, and still remain as loyal and trustworthy as you have to me. I also should never have had said what I did when you were injured. I trust you completely. You are a remarkable person, Merlin and for my statements against you, I am truly sorry."
Merlin was taken aback, he had never thought to blame Arthur for any of this and he needed to make him understand why. "Arthur, I have never held you responsible for the opinions you were taught as a child, those are not your fault. I only ever hoped to show you that magic is not evil, that it is just a weapon. The people wielding it make it good or evil, just like when you wield Excalibur."
"I see that now. You are the perfect example of that difference." He paused for a moment before continuing, "I really am glad you're safe." Arthur looked up and for once in the conversation Merlin actually held his gaze. They remained like that for a moment before Arthur broke the silence.
"So, Merlin, what are we going to do about Guinevere?"
"Well, I think I know where I can find the solution…"
I hope this last part wasn't too OOC but I wanted to give Merlin some credit so I threw in some Arthur acceptance.
Alright so that is the end of the fanfic I hope you enjoyed it and for any of you who are willing to read something else, I've been working on another story that's not anywhere near complete but I wanted a few opinions on whether or not to keep working on it. Its definitely darker than this one, still whump!Merlin and protective!Arthur but a bit more extreme. It's set in season 3 and it's set around the premise that Morgause and Cenrad have captured Arthur and Merlin but instead of allowing them to torture Arthur, Merlin takes the brunt of the punishment (I told you its significantly darker). I'm going for the bromance aspect and the story is kind of based on the song "You Won't Feel a Thing" by the Script. But anyway, here's a short little excerpt if anyone wants to read more feel free to PM me and I'll send you what I have. Just remember before you read this, I've gone kinda dark and it is nowhere near done.
On with the preview!
Cenrad's thugs came for them again the next day. They had finally surrendered to sleep, Merlin still clutched protectively in Arthur's arms, like he could do anything to delay the inevitable. They were exhausted and the creaking of the doors did not rouse Arthur like it should have, instead he awoke to a howl of pain as Merlin was wrenched out of his grasp by his broken arm. Arthur leapt up and with a growl launched himself at the man who was currently manhandling his friend into manacles. He didn't see the second guard, although somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he had to be there, it seemed they didn't trust the quickly angered prince. It didn't matter, he never made it to the man shackling up Merlin, who continued to cry out in pain as the cuffs were clasped too tightly around the swollen arm, because his friend blindsided him. The prince was taken down quickly and soon found himself in the familiar chains across the room from his friend who by the time he looked up, was trying to steady his breathing and will the tears not to fall.
The first blow came without warning. Merlin cried out, he had given up on staying quiet; instead he seemed to be focusing on doing anything to keep from begging. What he was actually doing was doing anything to stay awake; he had to keep these men away from Arthur. And as the blows continued to fall the men didn't say anything they just hit him. They didn't ask any questions, they didn't want any information, they just wanted to cause pain. Thankfully, they had not gone to anything beyond fists and boots and the fact that Arthur was actually praising that fact made him sick to his stomach.
He saw every hit and he felt every one like a boot to his stomach. After one particularly hard hit, Arthur heard a thud and he knew that the heavy fist had cracked a rib. If it was possible, Merlin cried out even louder, tears rolling down his cheeks. Arthur started to scream.
"You'll kill him!" He was pulling at the chains around his arms, he could feel the cold metal digging into his wrists but he couldn't bring himself to care. He continued to yell and continued to pull, desperately trying to reach his struggling friend.
He caught Merlin's eye shortly before the man's fluttered closed.
That spurred Arthur on more, praying that he had just passed out and not that he had witnessed his friend's death, Arthur continued to yell and curse at the guards.
"Dammit stop! He's had enough you bastards!"
Two more hits.
"Hit me, release me and I'll fight! I'll kill you both!"
Apparently, the lack of screaming ended the session because after what seem liked it should have been days, the blows stopped. The guards tired of their prey and not a moment too soon, Merlin was hanging limp in the chains. He hadn't reacted to the last few hits. Arthur was well aware he was crying, he could taste the salt on his lips but he couldn't bring himself to care. He remembered when he had told Merlin that he should cry for no man and now he was wondering why he ever thought that was a valiant sentiment. He had just watched his friend be beaten for the better part of a day, watched as blow after blow hit his unprotected body, been forced to listen as he screamed out in pain with every hit but never once asked for mercy. That was valiant and that pain deserved tears. As the men moved toward Merlin to unshackle him Arthur caught one of the men's eye and he noticed something akin to fascination, apparently they had not thought his skinny manservant would have been able to last a day let alone a week. Pressing this advantage, Arthur did something he rarely even thought to do, he begged. He didn't threaten or coerce. He knew they would unshackle Merlin, allowing him to hit the ground without any kind of support and he didn't know if he could watch that, so he begged.
"Please," the man whose eye he had caught turned to him, "please, let me down first, let me help him." The other, younger guard turned to sneer at him. "Seems like we picked the wrong whelp, should have started with the princeling, he seems easier to break than this scrawny thing." He ended the statement with a quick shot to Merlin's ribs, causing the boy to gasp and try to curl away from the pain in his unconsciousness.
Choosing to ignore him, Arthur looked back to the older man, "Please, I'm begging you, let me go first."
Seeming to consider it, "If you try anything boy…" The threat hung in the air.
"I won't, please just let me help him." Thankfully, the guard Arthur was speaking to held the keys and he reversed his route, moving over to Arthur he warily unlocked the shackles and watched as the Prince's hands fell to his sides. "Go on then." He said gesturing over to Merlin.
Arthur walked over to his friend and placed his hands under his arms so he could gently guide him down after the manacles were released. He knew he would have to take all of his weight, what little it was, the time in the cells was wearing on him already and his skinny body was boney now. The guard released the chains and Merlin fell, thankfully Arthur was there this time. He lowered him gently to the floor and then, just like he had the last few nights, pulled him against his chest and resolved to keep him there until he woke up.
Looking up at the guard, he nodded his thanks, and was surprised when the guard spoke again. "Food will be sent down to you tonight. Make sure to get him to eat some." Nodding again he watched as the guards left the room and the thunk of the door was a slice to the heart.
"Merlin, you need to wake up." He mumbled to his servant, his hand coming to rest in the raven hair, stroking it back repeatedly, hoping that it was a calming gesture.