AN: I still don't earn Merlin.
This story just hasn't left my mind, which is why there's a third update so soon. Especially when I was never planning on a third update. But a reviewer suggested it, and I liked the idea... so here it is. I do hope that it's somewhat good.
He was tired, and saddened, it was obvious that Mordred was breaking a part since the capture of the druid girl. Which was why he was searching the castle now, looking for Mordred. He didn't know how he would help Mordred, but he thought he could at least offer silent comfort. He knew the way your heart could break at the death of a loved one. His whole family had been destroyed. As had his heart. He couldn't save Mordred's heart. But he could let him know he was not alone.
He stopped his search of the castle when he heard Lancelot's name. People rarely spoke of Lancelot unless they were lauding his bravery. The ordeal with Gwen kept people silent. He would admit that that whole situation was wrong. But not because of Gwen's actions. But Lancelot's. He knew Lancelot. And it still felt wrong that Lancelot would go behind the King's back. That he would ever put Gwen in that situation. He loved Gwen far too much for that. And then Lancelot had killed himself. That was wrong. Lancelot never backed down from the consequences of his action. That wasn't the person Lancelot was. And suicide was not something Lancelot would do. Percival knew that. He knew it with all his heart. But he had no explanation for the reasons. Just knew, there had to be an explanation.
He shuffled quietly to the hallway that he had heard Lancelot's name spoken from. Obeying some silent instinct to stay silent and unobserved. He listened quietly.
"And I felt like I didn't have to be alone. He helped me hide my magic, although I had gotten pretty good at hiding it, obviously since I was still alive. But it felt safer, and he wanted to see my magic, and that made it seem like less of a curse and a burden." Percival did his best not to gasp aloud. Magic? In Camelot. He was no hater of magic, but he had seen the destruction magic could bring. And that Lancelot had known of magic in Camelot, and said nothing to the king. Supported it even. He twitched forward. There was really only one person that Lancelot would have supported that way. Supported so unconditionally. And even if Percival didn't now recognize the voice, he wasn't surprised when he looked around the corner and saw Merlin sitting there. He was a little surprised to see his head on Mordred's he was under the impression that they didn't quite get along. But Merlin was still talking, and Percival found he couldn't move.
"And then he went and sacrificed himself. Sometimes I still wish that he had let me sacrifice myself. I hated myself for so long after we lost Lancelot. Because he sacrificed himself in part because he believed I had a bigger destiny." There was a painful laugh before Merlin continued. "Destiny, I hate that word." Percival wasn't surprised that Merlin had been planning on sacrificing himself to the veil, nor was he surprised that Lancelot had decided to get there first. But it did explain the fact that Merlin had taken far longer than the rest of them to heal. Although Percival wondered now if Merlin was healed.
"Emrys." Who was Emrys. "You're not done Emrys." Who was Mordred talking to?
"Why aren't you saving her yet? I'm letting you save her, promising to not interfere. Why aren't you saving her?" Percival stopped another sharp gasp. Merlin was going to help Mordred rescue the druid girl? Well, perhaps not help, but certainly not hinder.
"Go on Emrys, finish." What was going on here? Why was Mordred calling Merlin Emrys? Why wasn't Mordred trying to save the girl? Why had this little heart to heart happening? And to be honest he was surprised that it was Merlin that was telling his story. He almost thought it would be more likely for Mordred. Because Mordred was the one with the life of his love on the line. And… well Merlin never really opened up to anyone. He didn't think even Arthur knew as much about Merlin as Arthur thought he did. Merlin kept everything close. Which was why Percival didn't move except to sit himself down on the floor. It was wrong, and not befitting a knight. But he wanted to know. Wanted to understand the man that seemed to both give everything of himself. But also hid away so far no one could find him.
He waited patiently for Merlin to speak again. "Lancelot came back as some sort of wraith. And I think that killed me just as much as having him gone. Because he was there, but he wasn't. And he didn't remember. After he killed himself I took him to the Lake of Avalon too. I forced the part of him controlled by Morgana out, and he was there long enough to thank me. And then he died again. He thanked me! But I couldn't save him, I wasn't there for Gwen when she was banished. I had failed all over again." Percival felt a myriad of emotions. Anger, that Merlin had known that it wasn't really Lancelot and said nothing, allowed Lancelot's reputation to be destroyed. Sorrow for the man who had lost his best friend even when the rest of the world thought he was there. Confusion, because Merlin had said that was the second person he took to this Lake. And Percival didn't know of anyone else close to Merlin that had died. And that added to his hurt. How many people had Merlin lost in silence. And then gratitude. That someone knew, someone knew that Lancelot really was the honorable person that Percival believed him to be. And so he kept listening. Because he felt that he could only learn more from here.
"Gwen, oh Gwen. She's one of my dearest friends. Her, and Gwaine, and Arthur. But none of them see. Gwen thinks that I'm a sweet friend, powerless, but strong. She's always thanking me for being there for her. But I don't feel as though I really am, I would do everything for her, everything but tell her the truth. And she's so in love, and she's so happy, that even if I could go to her I don't think I would. Because she's so happy." Percival knew the truth now, that Merlin had magic, that Merlin literally hid a large portion of himself away at all times, afraid to let anyone know lest they turn him away. And it seemed incomprehensible to have to carry that fear all by oneself.
Percival risked a glance around the corner. Merlin still had his head on Mordred's shoulder, and though he couldn't see it, he wouldn't be surprised if there were tears. Mordred was watching Merlin, a strange, thoughtful, hesitant, sorrowful look etched on his face. Merlin's voice broke as he continued. "And Gwaine he trusts me, he told me I was his first friend. And he told me his deepest secret. And I couldn't tell him my own secret. And even now, even now he tells me his secrets and his fears. And I can't tell him mine. And I feel like a traitor because, I want to tell him. I want to, I do. But I can't. The words get stuck in my throat and the fear flares up, and I feel even more alone. Because he would listen, I know he would. But the fear is too much, and I can't, I can't tell. And I think it's going to break me." That puzzled Percival, a broken Merlin seemed so wrong. But… it explained things. Why Merlin seemed to smile a little less, frightened a little more, why Merlin's eyes seemed to carry a heaviness that seemed so out of place. He had been hiding in a city that scorned and hated who he was for the past nine years. And that took a toll on even the strongest person. And had Percival ever doubted Lancelot's decree that Merlin was one of the bravest, strongest people he knew, he would have had his doubts erase. Because a person couldn't do what Merlin did without being strong. And Percival was well acquainted with all the different types of strength.
"And Arthur?" Mordred was prompting Merlin again. And Percival realized it had been quiet for far to long. Percival almost wanted to move. He almost didn't want to hear what Merlin's best friend had done in part to break him.
"Not yet. Kilgharrah tries too." Percival felt relieved. It wasn't Arthur, not yet. "He's a dragon," Percival blinked. And then blinked again. A dragon? Merlin was friends with a dragon? Percival was a little surprised to find that he wasn't completely surprised by this revelation. It just sort of seemed like the sort of thing that Merlin would end up doing. "Kilgharrah was alone for so long, so he understands, or tries to. But he gets so caught up in destiny that he doesn't see what the weight of destiny does. He doesn't really see how much it hurts to have the pressure of Albion on your shoulders." What was Merlin's destiny that weighed so much? "Did I say how much I hate that word?" If it was as heavy as Merlin was making it sound than Percival didn't blame him for his disgust. Percival himself wasn't a fan of destiny. It seemed a terrible thing to know one's own destiny. He hoped to never know his own.
"It was because of Kilgharrah that I met my father. I had set him free and he was burning Camelot, and we had to find the last Dragon Lord." Merlin was friends with that dragon? The dragon that Arthur had supposedly slain? People still told the stories of Arthur's bravery in destroying the monster… and he hadn't even really killed it. "Arthur and I set out to find him, and before we left, Gaius told me that he, Balinor, was my father. And it hurt, because that meant that Uther had forced me to grow up without a father, and that Uther was the reason I had to hide who I was. Uther was the reason my mother was alone and I was afraid." Percival had never liked Uther, he liked him even less now. "And it hurt because my father was alive, and I had never even known his name. We found him. He was living in a cave. All alone, and he was so bitter, and so alone, and so hurt. And I imagined that was going to be me in the future, alone, afraid and hunted." It wouldn't be. Percival wouldn't let it happen. Somehow, Percival was going to make sure that Merlin knew he was there for him. The same way Lancelot had been there for him. "But despite the fact that he was bitter and angry, he came with us. And I don't think it was for Camelot, I don't think that it was for the people or for the dragon, and it certainly wasn't for Uther. I think he came back for me. And then we were attacked. And he jumped in front of a sword for me. And he died in my arms too. And it hurt, because I had just found him, and I had wanted to take him back to Ealdor to see my mother. And he was dead, and it was my fault, because I let the dragon free, I convinced him to come, I was to slow to save myself. And he saved me. And he left me with one more power that I didn't want." Percival's heart clenched. Another person had already died in Merlin's arms. And Percival had a sinking feeling that this was not just Lancelot, but the other person that Merlin had taken to the lake. And then his mind blinked. Merlin was a dragon lord? He knew the myths that the powers of the dragon lord transferred from father to son after the father's death. That would be painful, to lose someone after so long apart, only to find another power, another responsibility laid firmly on your shoulders, and your shoulders alone. "I never told my mother. I never told her that I met Balinor, I never told her that he died in my arms, or that he left me as the last Dragon Lord. And a carved dragon. He left me a carved dragon, and I don't think I will ever give it up. Because it's the only thing I have of him." A carved dragon, it was no replacement for a father. Percival knew that well.
"Arthur is my best friend. I would give my life for him." Percival wanted to snort, that was just like Merlin, Merlin would give his life for Arthur in a heartbeat, and Percival had a small feeling that Merlin would give his life for him, or Gwaine, or Lean just as quickly. "I have already given up everything else. And it hurts, because he doesn't know me, he doesn't understand me. And it hurts because I will always come second. I will always be pushed away for the newest knight, or some noble. And he says that he trusts me with everything. But every time I warn him, every time I tell him that something has gone wrong, or that something has happened, he pushes me away and tells me to leave. And then he reminds me that I am just a servant. And it hurts. Because I have given him everything, and he can't even trust me. And it hurts, because I can't count the times I've been left behind. And he walks away and just expects me to show up and follow. And he doesn't even see that it's breaking me." Percival suddenly hurt, because he remembered some of those times that Merlin had been left behind. Ismere bright in his mind. It was only afterward that he noticed that Merlin hadn't been with the group as they made there way back to Camelot. And no one had noticed, no one had said anything. And while he had eventually noticed, he had been to worried, to concerned about Arthur. And when he had seen Merlin a bit later in Camelot, looking exhausted and tired. Percival hadn't had the bravery to say he was sorry. To say that he would never let it happen again. And he thought it was partially his fault that Merlin seemed so close to breaking. And then another phrase pierced his mind 'just a servant', Merlin was anything but just a servant. He was as brave as any of the knights, as kind as Gwen, and more loyal than you could ask for. No, Merlin was far more than just a servant.
"When did I become so weak?" Not weak, no, never weak. Tired, exhausted, close to breaking? Maybe, but never weak. And if Percival could do anything about it, he would do his best to help heal Merlin.
"And then there's you." He felt a shaft of guilt at the words before he realized that Merlin wasn't talking to him, didn't even know that he was there, and was instead addressing Mordred. "You're the only one who could ever understand, but I couldn't turn to you, I couldn't trust you. So many people, so many people telling me to not trust you. Finna, the dragon, the crystal. And it hurt, because you were like me, and you wanted to help, and you wanted my help, and I had to push you away, and I wanted nothing more than to tell you that it was going to be ok, that you didn't have to be alone in this kingdom without magic. But I couldn't because they said not to trust you, and I was so afraid, so afraid of what you could do, what you might do. And so this time I was all alone, and it was more my fault than ever." There was another pause, and Percival wondered if this had more to do with the Destiny that weighed so heavily on his shoulders. Fears of what could be. And Percival was doubly grateful for his lack of foreknowledge. And he felt even more sorry for Mordred, to know that there could have been someone there for you, if it weren't for the fact, that someday in the future you might do something terrible. "And I can never tell you sorry enough, because I let you go through all this alone, when I know just how painful it is to be alone." Neither of them would be alone anymore. He would be there for Merlin and Mordred, even if he had to help Mordred break the girl out. Because suddenly Percival remembered the time after his family had been killed, before he had found Lancelot. He remembered the aching emptiness that threatened to consume him. And, he felt guilty that he hadn't noticed that two of his friends had been suffering that ache in silence. Because he thought he knew why Merlin was telling Mordred this story. He surmised that there had been a catalyst, probably to do with the girl. But Merlin was opening up to Mordred because Merlin saw someone just as broken, just as lonely as himself. And, it always seemed safer to tell someone you were broken if they were just as broken as you. Percival had noted it with Lancelot. They were both a little broken, and they had helped each other. Different types of broken, but broken. And Percival vowed to help these two broken men around the corner.
There was silence. Utter silence. "Save her. Be happy." Percival felt a jolt, and before he knew what he was doing he was up and moving, taking an alternate path to the dungeons, moving quickly but silently. He moved past the guards silently. They didn't stop him, didn't even question him.
He found a deeply shadowed place to hide, close enough to the girl's cell he'll be able to hear any words spoken, but far enough away that the girl hadn't notice his approach and that Mordred wouldn't see him. He wanted to be hear, to know what they were planning. Because he would help them escape. It crossed his mind briefly that he was committing treason. But then both Merlin and Mordred committed treason whenever they so much as breathed. They had magic, and yet they were still here. And Lancelot had committed treason. He knew that Merlin had magic and hadn't turned him in. More than that, he had aided Merlin, helped and comforted Merlin. And Percival thought that if he were to commit treason, these two men were worth it. And he had always admired Lancelot; it seemed fitting to follow in his footsteps helping these men.
He waited in silence. A little surprised by how long it was taking Mordred, he knew the man, he didn't move slowly, rather with a quick deliberation that suggested he knew what he was doing at all times. He wondered if Mordred was collecting supplies and provisions.
Whish was why he was surprised when Mordred appeared, moving with an uncertainty that surprised Percival. And Percival thought that there was a terrible battle being waged in the knight's mind.
Mordred moved slowly to the girl's cell, and the girl moved slowly until they were face to face with only bars between them. No observers other than the man in the shadows. "Kara" Mordred's voice sounded broken. Confused. Shaken. "Kara"
"Mordred" Percival felt guilty for what felt like the hundredth time that day. He had already listened to one private conversation, and here he was again, listening to yet another. The very way they had said each other's names was intimate. But it was to late now. And so he did what he had done earlier, just sat there and listened.
"Why?" Percival was surprised. It was a good question. He just hadn't expected Mordred to ask it. And for a reason Percival didn't know he felt a small thrill of foreboding.
"Because, he has killed so many. He has hurt so many. He is blind and cruel, and he deserves death." It was said coldly. And Percival found it odd that Mordred had fallen in love with someone so bent on revenge. Mordred had stabbed Morgana, whose very purpose was revenge. It seemed unlike Mordred. And it also seemed weird to hear such cold words spoken about Arthur, he knew there were people that hated him. But he had never actually heard the words coming straight from anyone. Other than Morgana of course.
"But it would change nothing. It would not bring us freedom." He wondered if Arthur had ever thought of that. The freedom that these people felt they lacked. And he admitted it made sense. They had been killed for what they were. He wondered where he would stand. Would he be like Merlin, a silent victim, who nonetheless protected Arthur, or would he be like Kara. Angry and bitter. Wanting to kill and hurt. Or would he be like Mordred. Somewhere in the middle, trying to decide where he stood. Because Percival realized that was where Mordred was now. That was the reason he was asked Kara that question. He thought it was something to do with Merlin's story. Because he had a feeling that before the two had spoken, there had been only one choice in Mordred's mind. Save Kara. But now. Now for some reason he was hesitant. He had come to the point where he had to decide where he stood. Which route he would ultimately take.
Percival hadn't ever really made the decision; after his family had been killed he had been lost in a haze of pain. It was then that he met Lancelot. And Lancelot had given him new purpose. And somehow he had found himself here. Intent on protecting. Because he had failed to protect once. And he had sworn not to fail again.
"But it would change everything. With Arthur gone it would be so easy for Morgana to take control the way she is trying to. We would be free. We would have the justice that has been denied us for so long." Justice. It didn't seem quite right. But now he was watching Mordred, the way he was holding himself, as though he was teetering on a beam, either way he moved he would fall. Percival hoped that whichever way he leaned that the fall wouldn't kill him.
"But there are so many innocents." The words sounded like Mordred. The fair just Mordred that Percival knew had been one of the reasons that Arthur had been so quick to knight him. He cared so deeply. Maybe too deeply.
"And he has killed innocents." Percival's mind flitted to the two innocents that were in the process of dying. Mordred and Merlin. To of the most innocent. Slowly dying. And in a way it was Arthur's fault. But Merlin was still hear, a servant to the king. And Mordred, Mordred was still there. Trying to decide. And Percival thought that even now, as he doubted Kara, doubted her because of the revenge she spoke so fiercely of, he would still help Mordred free her. Because Mordred was one of the innocents. More than that Mordred was still his brother, an innocent brother that was dying.
"But what if Morgana is wrong?" She was wrong. Percival didn't doubt that. His first experience of Camelot was saving it from under Morgana's tyranny. She had been slighted and wronged, Percival didn't doubt that; but she had also been ruthless and cruel. Rather like Uther, the man she had professed to hate.
"She is not. She is willing to do whatever it takes to free our kind. Is that not what we want Mordred? Don't you see what she is trying to do for us?" But at what cost?
"Kara" Percival didn't understand the emotions running through that one word. But that didn't stop them from being heart wrenching. He thought that Kara might be killing Mordred just as much as Arthur was.
"Mordred?" She sounded confused, questioning. And Percival realized she didn't understand the emotions any better than he did.
"They're going to kill you in the morning. Tell them you're sorry, tell them that you'll change. That you won't seek to hurt Camelot anymore." Percival thought his heart might have stopped.
There was a soft laugh. "Mordred, Camelot deserves to be destroyed. Why can't you see that?" And why couldn't Kara see that she was destroying Mordred? Because Percival was fairly certain that that was what was happening.
And even as Percival thought it he knew it was right, "Kara" because as Mordred repeated the girl's name for the fourth time he thought he heard his friend's heart break.
"He has killed our kind. He has hunted us. He deserves death." She was pushing him away, couldn't she see that?
"I love you Kara." The words were final. And broken. And Percival didn't understand, but he did. And he wished that he hadn't seen Mordred's face as he turned to leave. Because while his face appeared stoic, his eyes spoke of the deepest of pains.
He waited until Kara returned to her corner of the cell before he moved out of the shadows. He moved silently again, unsure where his feet were taking him. But he found him retracing his earlier steps. Taking the round about path back to the corner where he had heard of Merlin's heartbreak. And he had just witnessed Mordred's heartbreak. He glanced around the corner again. A little surprised to see Merlin alone. He had almost thought that Mordred would make his way back here. He stood there for a moment. Trying to decide whether or not he should try and find Mordred, or make sure that no one came by Merlin. Because Merlin didn't need anyone to see him now. The choice was made for him when Mordred appeared. There were tears running down his cheeks and he sat silently next to Merlin. For the longest time neither spoke, neither moved. He's still watching, but he doesn't think they would even notice if they looked right at him. They are both to far gone.
Merlin moves first. Mirroring the position Percival had first found them in. Pulling Mordred's head to his shoulder and holding him. They're both trembling.
"She's going to die in a few hours." There is more silence. And Percival thinks he sees Merlin pull Mordred a little closer.
"Please don't let me be alone anymore." It's Mordred again, and Percival hates to hear him sound so broken, so afraid.
"Never again. Never again." And even though Merlin is promising Mordred, Percival thinks that they are promising each other. Two broken men, who only have each other. And so Percival makes the promise to both of them. He will never let them be alone again. Not if he can help it.
He leaves for a short time. To listen to Kara's trial. His heart braking a little at the coldness in her eyes. The coldness that broke Mordred, the coldness hiding somewhere in Merlin's past.
He tells Arthur that no, he hasn't seen either Merlin or Mordred as of late. And that while Mordred will be hurt, Percival is sure he'll come to understand. He's not completely sure, but he'd like to think so. He hurries off, he doesn't want to see Kara die. Instead he hurries back to the corner. He stays there for a while, silently watching them. Understanding the grief Mordred feels, at least in part. Because he has lost love before. And there is no miraculous cure that heals you.
He moves silently down the hallway then. Saying nothing, just hoping that they'll understand as he moves away from them without a word that he will tell no one, and that he will let no one else see.
He circles that spot the rest of the day. Not letting either Merlin or Mordred see him again. But sending off anyone who comes close to seeing them. But still as he moves in silence. He listens. And it hurts a little when hours later Mordred finally spoke. "I think a part of me has died." And Percival understands. Because he has felt himself die as his loved ones left him.
And he doesn't need to see it to know that Merlin pulled Mordred just a little closer as they continued mourning in silence.
So Percival continued his watch. Protecting these two broken men. His friends, who right now couldn't protect themselves.
AN: I hope you enjoyed it... I enjoyed writing it! Ah, isn't writing wonderful! :D