Not the Recommended Excuse
Based on 5x08 The Hollow Queen
Summary: An alternative ending to 5x08 that's actually happy. Merlin and Daegel have a misunderstanding with Arthur. Merlin and this fandom need some love right now.
"Thank you again, for saving me." Daegel said as they walked along an open corridor.
"Ssshh!" Merlin glanced around and leant towards the other boy. "None of that happened. As far as anyone knows you weren't injured. Right? I didn't heal you." Merlin suddenly stumbled forward and Daegel rushed to catch him.
"All right?" Daegel said as he kept him standing as Merlin grabbed his leg before gingerly put his foot down again.
"Fine, I'll have Gaius take a look at it."
"Merlin!" Arthur yelled, causing both men to turn fast as their king approached. "Where the hell do you think you're disappearing off to?"
Merlin and Daegel disentangled themselves and Merlin straightened up, standing as normally as he could.
"Oh, I was just going to see Gauis."
"Right," Arthur drawled, crossing his arms. "Rather than attending to me, like you're supposed to. You've probably heard that things have been busy here. You know, important visitors, treaties, assassination attempts. But I suppose you've just been too busy to notice all that. Can't even check in with me after disappearing for days."
"I was out gathering herbs for Gaius- s'pose I got a bit lost, you know how it is with me." Merlin gave a nervous chuckle.
"And who is this?" Arthur said, looking at Daegel, who at the moment looked like he wanted to melt into the walls, looking anywhere but the king. This only made him look rather suspicious. Merlin noticed that he didn't look like much other than an unusually nervous and particularly shabby looking traveler. This was going to be fun to explain.
"This is my, erm, friend Daegel. I met him while gathering herbs and was planning to show him around Camelot." Merlin said, hoping that would be enough of an excuse for him to have a few minutes to see Gaius about his injuries. As an afterthought, he said, "he was the one who stopped that assassin."
"Is that so?" Arthur said, changing his tone. "Well then, thank you, I owe you my life."
"It was nothing." Daegel said breathlessly, looking pleased. Merlin couldn't help but feel a small glow of affection for him, even if it was really Merlin who had saved Arthur once again.
"If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. Will you be staying in Camelot tonight? You are welcome to stay here in the castle."
"Thank you sire. Merlin here has already been kind enough to offer me his bed for the night."
At this Arthur raised his eyebrows and shifted his attention back to Merlin.
"Yes- he's a stranger to Camelot and he has nowhere to go." It was nothing strange- they often have visitors stay in the infirmary and it certainly wouldn't be the first time he gave up his bed for a friend or visitor.
"Hang on, you two," Arthur said gesturing between them, "have been with each other the past two days?"
"Well, yes." Merlin said.
"This whole time?"
"Y-yeah, I suppose you could say that."
"So, when Guinevere said you were with a girl, she was referring to… this?"
"What? What girl?"
"Apparently there isn't one." At which point Arthur gave a pointed look to Daegel and looked him up and down with a peculiar expression. "So this is why you were gone the past two days without telling anyone? I can see why you'd want to keep it quiet."
"Hang on, what are we talking about?" Merlin asked, honestly perplexed.
"This would also explain why your backside's all dirty."
Merlin frowned and patted the back of his jacket. Granted, it was dirty after slowly dying at the foot of a cliff for a full day and night. But what did that have to do with anything.
"And why you have a limp." Arthur said.
Merlin glanced down at his leg and felt even more confused. But instead of being curious or interrogative, Arthur had this knowing look and nodded his head while gazing at Merlin like he'd never properly seen him before. Merlin found it disconcerting and chanced another glance at Daegel who looked just as lost.
"What about my limp?" Merlin asked, voice perhaps edging a note higher than usual.
He glanced at Daegel for any help, but he just stood there looking confused and lost and perhaps a bit intimated for standing before the king of Camelot.
"Arthur, I can explain. We were just… uh."
Arthur put up a hand, "I really don't want to know. Really. Next time though you had better damn tell me if you're going to be off for days at a time. Even if it is with your… friend. Anyway, just make sure you're there for dinner tonight- I'll be dining with Gwen in my chambers. Don't be late."
Merlin and Daegel stood there and watched as Arthur walked away, neither of them moving or speaking until he turned a corner.
"What the hell was that about?" Merlin asked, gazing about, puzzling over Arthur's strange behavior and those strange questions.
What did having a dirty jacket and a limp have to do with gathering herbs? Or with Daegel? And what was that about a girl? He was usually more inquisitive when he disappeared for days, something didn't feel right.
"Oh…" Merlin felt comprehension dawn on him, as he looked first at Daegel and then toward where Arthur was just turning a corner. "Oh…oh, he thinks- Arthur thinks that we… that you and I." Merlin made some frantic hand gestures as he put together the pieces.
He turned quickly towards where Arthur had gone. "Arthur! Wait! It's not what you think." He hobbled after him, with the other boy just a step behind.
But he only took a few steps before Merlin suddenly stopped, leaning against the wall Daegel nearly ran into him. He turned, wild-eyed and shaking his head madly at the other boy.
"I don't know what to tell him. I can't think of any better excuse! I can't bloody well tell him the truth. He thinks we were having sex this whole time!"
Daegel quickly turned his head, but not before Merlin caught a smile on his face, and saw him try and stifle a chuckle.
"What are you- stop laughing!" Merlin said.
Daegel now had both hands clasped over his mouth and he was visibly shaking. Merlin thought he might start shaking too- this was serious and here he was laughing.
"This isn't funny! Arthur thinks we were having sex!"
Daegel let out a high wheezing laugh, his face scrunched up and red from trying to hold it in, as he grasped the banister tightly. For a moment he could only gaze at him as he fell apart as Merlin began to feel the sheer absurdity of the situation.
"We were dying! That's the opposite of sex!" He almost shouted, just as a maidservant passed the doorway, pausing long enough for Merlin to see a scandalized look on her face. "And it didn't happen!" But he choked on the last words as he tried to hold in his own laughter, especially as the false-Druid boy fell to the floor.
Merlin couldn't keep a straight face, especially not with the boy shaking and hiccupping at his feet. He soon found himself on the floor as well, laughing at it all. At how absurd and stupid this all was. At the relief that they were both alive and had both been very nearly killed. That they had saved Arthur and thwarted Morgana and Sarrum. At how ridiculous it was that Arthur, Arthur of all people, though he had been having sex for the past two days with this boy who he had just met- calling him a friend might be coming on a bit high.
Merlin laughed until he was brushing away hot tears and he was curled up against the wall because of his aching sides. It was a long while before they had collected themselves apart from the occasional giggle, trying to ignore the people that passed them in the hallway and looked at them like they had gone entirely mad, which made it all the funnier. It was probably a good thing Merlin gave up anything resembling dignity when he became Arthur's manservant.
Finally they both had regained some breath and sat shoulder to shoulder against the rock wall, both still smiling like idiots, Merlin at least having the decency to try and drag his face into a more normal expression, although it couldn't last as they kept making comments or just noises that made them dissolve again into fits of laughter.
Merlin sighed and let his head fall back against the rough stone that only served to remind him that he still had a bleeding head injury. He leant forward, rubbing the back of his head while Daegel just laughed at him.
"Well, it could have been worse."
Merlin groaned. "I'm won't be able to look Arthur in the eyes for a week!"
Numerous people passed them in the hall, servants and knights and guards, including Leon and Percival. But they just sat there and Merlin reflected on how alive he felt in that moment. Merlin couldn't remember a time like this.
Of course it hardly changed anything. Morgana was still at large, Arthur was still forever in danger, he still had the issue of Gwen's enchantment to sort out, plus his entire destiny still loomed over his path, foreboding and dangerous.
Yet he could push that aside for the moment- for now he let himself have just a few minutes to breathe. It was exhilarating all on its own how free he felt, like he was still the same boy from Ealdor, before his whole world was thrown about. Sitting there shoulder to shoulder with this strange boy who had betrayed him and saved his life. Who knew him and liked him and was an equal. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have a friend, an equal to laugh with and fight with and, well, act a bit stupid around and it was all right.
In those few minutes he wasn't a servant or a fool or a dragonlord or the Emrys of legend- he was, simply, Merlin.
As they made their way down the hallway and the stairs to the physician's quarters, Merlin didn't mind so much anymore having to lean on Daegel as he hobbled along.
And so maybe he wouldn't be able to look at Arthur seriously for a week. And there was a good chance a rumor was going to spread through the castle. And he dreaded to think of what the knights might think if they got wind of it. Merlin glanced aside at Daegel as he leaned on him, arms around each other's shoulders. He looked into his brown eyes and found himself smiling before he even realized it.
Well, he thought, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad rumor after all.
All in all, it wasn't such a bad day. At any rate it could have gone a lot worse.
Ok, so I ship it, I guess. Well, Arthur ships it anyway. I'll admit that it's my headcanon. Oh yeah, there's no way Daegel died, the writers just wrote it like that because they love torturing us (and Merlin). This was the real ending but at the last minute they thought that's too happy- let's kill him instead.
I swear this should have gone up the day after the episode aired but I didn't think it was ready- in fact I still don't think it's quite how I want it but screw it all, I just needed to get it published. Especially because tomorrow is the series finale and I don't think I'll be able to look at it again the same way after that. Oh god, they're going to die aren't they? We're all going to be heart-broken and crying and the geek corner of Tumblr is going to explode and we'll be desperate for fanfiction or just more allusions to Brolin and it's all going to be over. But the fandom will live on.