I had this little piece semi-finished for a long while now. (From even before the series finale tbh.) And I figured I never really did a reveal!fic, so why not finish it now? I did love how all the questions and statements/accusations I read around in reveal!fics on this wonderful site did actually get asked and said in the series when time came for it.. So now it's my turn to add my part to this particular topic, polished and finished~ It's a little syrupy, I know, but hope you like it! Feedback appreciated~
On with the update galore! And on with the fic!
He slipped in and out of consciousness, not really being able to tell how much time had passed between each time of lucidity.
He knew as much that he was hurt. He was in pain; tremendous pain; he was certain he burnt with a fever, and above all, he knew that something terrible had happened.
Each time he woke he saw dark cell walls and the dim light given by the torches. His cell didn't have any windows and he saw guards outside; the all familiar red capes of the Camelot guards. They didn't move, they didn't speak, he saw no point in calling out to them. He knew well how they were trained, and by whom.
He would wake to his own moans of pain; or his own tears wetting his temples; his sweat covering his skin; his own shivers as his body twitched and protested against the pain and the cold. He tasted blood in his mouth and couldn't muster the strength to lift his head and see just what was so painful. His own clothes sticking to his skin, damp from sweat and – he was certain – with blood. His neckerchief appeared to be choking him, it felt too warm, too thick; no doubt it was the fevers' doing, but he felt too weak to lift his own hand to take it off. Everything was just too heavy. The wooden cot felt like it was puling him, his own weight seemed to be too much for him to bare, not even being able to move.
Magic was keeping him alive, he figured; but how and at what price. He was grateful each time the darkness came close to claim him into oblivion; sometimes nightmares would creep up on him, but at least he couldn't feel the pain.
And the times of waking and passing out seemed to stretch on, he couldn't even guess for how long, but each time he woke he felt a little more tired, a little more worn out and weaker; a little further from all that was life.
He woke to being moved. He had someone's hand under his head, carefully lifting him, calling out his name in a muffed whisper and something pressed against his lips and something cool and damp came in contact with it. It trickled across his cheek before he realized what it was.
Someone was giving him water.. but the figure was very much out of focus and he couldn't tell who it was. The liquid felt so relieving to his dried lips. He wondered when was the last time he drank. He accepted a few sips, but couldn't drink more; he choked, coughed and pain once again washed through him. He gasped for air to steady his breathing, to avoid at least as much aching.
The figure was a guard, he guessed, vaguely seeing the red cape. Who else could he be? He did seem familiar somehow.. and there was a distinct scent of ale around him, but the flocks of hair prevented the warlock to recognize his features; not that he could have in the dark cell. The man kept glancing to the side. No doubt he was trespassing to give him a drink.
He started saying something that might as well been promises, precious promises, but the blurriness got to be too much and Merlin closed his eyes to escape it. He wanted to escape. To have it all be engulfed in the gloom once and for all; to end his suffering.
His escape was successful; right into the darkness.
Again he woke to being handled. A shaky old hand was fumbling with cloth around his torso. It hurt. A lot. Every touch, even the gentlest; just hurt, but all his fatigued state could allow was slight whimpers and muffed moans of discomfort.
He opened his eyes to see who it was. The figure just kept to his business and left the young warlock guessing who the fair flocks could belong to.
"..G..aiu.. ss…" his voice no more then half a sigh.
The figure stopped and turned to face him briefly. He felt the old physician's trembling hand on his cheek for a moment; a fondle touch, but nothing more. He sniffed, and even though Merlin couldn't see it, he realized his guardian was fighting his tears. But he didn't say anything; he didn't call him 'his boy', he didn't mutter encouraging words of how 'everything will be alright' or 'you are safe now', just sniffed and kept silent, focusing to do what he had as do, and to do it fast.
Why wasn't he saying anything? Was he, Merlin really in such a bad condition? And why did Gaius come only now? For who knows how long he's been in that cell.. Didn't he know Merlin's been injured..? or… or perhaps he wasn't allowed to treat his ward..? Why was he in the dungeons in the first place..? – his mind was overloading with questions.
Turning his head slightly, he spotted that red-caped man from before, standing in the open cell-door, glancing nervously between him and the corridors.
A bad feeling crept up on the young warlock and he struggled to stay awake, and perhaps find out more, but he was lacking the strength to form words and ask his guardian.
The old physicians' experienced hands moved fast and efficient, but only with effort he ignored the painful moans of his ward and tended to his wounds.
A pressing feeling to his side, Merlin gasped for air, but at that moment he recalled just what happened. He's been stabbed there. - So that's why it hurt. Slowly he remembered; and as fractions of images came to his mind, he managed to piece it all together, and he sure didn't like what he found.
They were ambushed by bandits, they got cornered in some ruins and Arthur has been wounded. So he.. – Merlin felt a brush of panic run through him. – he used magic, to defend Arthur. And Arthur saw that.
He saw everything..
They got chased between the walls of an old ruined castle. He helped the king escape from the swarm of bandits, as Percival and Elyan fought them back, but they took a wrong turn and even though they were reunited with Gwaine and Leon, they were cornered once again. Arthur took his sword anew and pushing Merlin aside continued to fight alongside his knights, but he was overpowered and soon began to wobble on his feet, so Merlin jumped in taking a fallen bandit's sword, stood in front of Arthur and fought off a couple of bandits as best he could, but he soon realized they just weren't the same caliber, so he let the sword down and held his hand up instead. The king's life was more important. This isn't how he wanted Arthur to find out, but there just was no other way.
They would all get slaughtered if he doesn't do something.
He glanced apologetically at the blonde then a flash of gold and the men flew back; he turned and did the same with the swarm coming in from behind them. His eyes stung once he took just a glimpse of Arthur's shocked expression and he couldn't bare to look at him anymore. He kept to the fight and flew people across the air with only a flinch of the eye. He fought like he was meant to: like a warlock. However they were, even for him too numerous and they kept getting closer.
He turned once to fight off the back, he saw one man reach a still stunned Arthur – he ignored the fact that the king was still looking at him; - the bandit was about to strike him down and there was no time to react, so he did the only thing he could do: he pushed the young man aside, jumping in between the bandit and this king. Merlin felt it, and Arthur no doubt saw it, as the blade ran through him and poked out through his back.
A cry of pain and the world seemed to get muted, he could only hear his own panting; his own heartbeat; feel his own agony and see the bandit in front of him as he pulled his sword loose from Merlin's body wearing a grin on his face. He received another stab from somewhere, but the next blow was his, tossing everyone back in one unearthly roar, even the knights tumbling from the pulsing strength Merlin gave out. Then he felt fatigued. He fell to his knees and soon met the ground; and he acknowledged as much, that none jumped to catch him.
No wonder he was in the cells. He realized it's a miracle he is still alive, but couldn't help and wonder, for how long and why..?
His attention was grabbed away from gloomy thoughts as he noticed more visitors arriving and soon commotion grew outside his prison.
He heard yelling and Gaius too, perked up and looked onto the corridor.
The yelling neared, but still seemed too far for the young man.
There were figures and silhouettes and vivid gestures and more yelling..
A high pitched voice demanded to know what was going on.
Gwen.. it had to be Gwen. - He recalled that sweet shy serving girl, he got to know when he arrived to Camelot so many years ago, now grown to be a confident and just queen.
He slowly shifted his head to peer at the corridor, where so many shadows had gathered. He caught sight of one in particular, a slender woman he could recognize, and as Gwen looked at him, her angry featured softened and caught his eye.
"Merlin.." she muttered in a weak voice and stepped close, but her hand was gripped by the other figure she was facing.
"Stay away from the sorcerer!" and Merlin recognized that shadow to be Arthur. Yes, that tall warrior-like man was Arthur. His king.. – It felt horrible to recognize him. He recalled that glance he got when he revealed his magic; and even now, unable to see the king's features in the darkness, that look still floated in front of him. It made his stomach turn even more and he tried to shift away, but he couldn't move, and the noises got louder. Only a shaky hand on his shoulder signaled to him that his distress was remarked; that his whimper amongst the thundering voices didn't go unnoticed.
There was more yelling and more arguments, but the warlock didn't understand, he just couldn't make it out what they were talking about. His senses have dimmed somehow; perhaps sweat trickled in his ear, perhaps fever has obscured everything.
But they were arguing. By the Gods, they were arguing, and whatever it was, it was loud and painful.
He swallowed and a sudden pop in his ear allowed him to understand the words.
"Listen to yourself! Is it truly what you believe, Arthur?! Is this you speaking of your pride?!" flew the accusation and it seemed all the more threatening coming from the queen's lips. "He didn't tell you?! Why do you think he didn't tell you!? Because of how you are treating him now! You are torturing him!"
"I trusted him! He betrayed me!" The king's voice thundered in the hallway.
"No, Arthur Pendragon. You betrayed him!" Gwen countered with a cold voice.
"How dare you?!" and at this point the other shadows standing around participated in the commotion and it was getting louder and louder, each one of them shouting their own point of view, their own accusations and defenses in the air. There was a slap and swords were drawn and at that point someone yelled in a deep hoarse voice and the walls shivered with it, Merlin realized it was his own voice..
"STOP IT…! Just… stop it… No m-more.. no more of this.." He won't have these people argue over him. He will just die and be done with it, but didn't want to see his friends fighting each other because of him; and his body seemed to act on that, or was it the sudden effort of the magic-infused scream, blood erupted from his dry throat and trickled passed his lips and more screams echoed as the cell door swung open in panic, but there was only silence and darkness after that.
He was hoping he wouldn't wake. - At all.
Just wouldn't wake anymore. He really hoped he would just keep floating in the unconscious and never have to see any angry or worried faces; hoped none will ever demand explanations and answers from him; that none will expect him to make more sacrifices then he already has; hoped he would never have to push aside his own feelings of grief and betrayal, for the sake of something greater, that somehow just kept remaining a promise and nothing more. He had hoped, - but then he woke.
He was still in the cell, he realized. His senses dimmed; his pains dull; and besides the now familiar damp walls he saw the face of a man he wanted the least to see. He gave off a ragged sigh and turned his head slightly not wanting to look at the blue eyes fixed on him.
However, they had to talk about it. It was something that just needed those long and painful conversations and detailed explanations in order for it all to be digested and accepted – least on the king's side, Merlin felt strange about it, or better put, he didn't feel anything.
He felt tired of it. Too long he sat and suffered in silence. He was reaching his limits. He was reaching that point where one has to just stop and say 'no more'. No more of this..
"Lying to me? All these years.. You really had to do that?" Arthur couldn't help it, he was still upset, but he was putting great effort into schooling his temper and the young warlock somehow found it somewhat amusing; knowing, no doubt, it was Gwen's scolding to be thanked; and perhaps a bit of Gaius's as well. He didn't feel like answering though; and not just cause of his parched throat.
"Why did you do it Merlin?" the king's dejected voice continued and the manservant involuntarily turned to look at him; not minding the tears welling up in his eyes. "I trusted you.. with everything. You knew everything that went on in my life, and you just kept lying to my face, all these years." The king hated it, and he hated the fact that it hurt him. His voice wavered and he felt his tears pressing forward to be shed, like a hurt child's protest.
Finally Merlin spoke; and his voice was worn and hoarse, and very much tired.
"I didn't h-have a choice.. but I have.. done my part. I have m-made my sacrifices, I have … given up on many t-things.. because I saw it necessary ..to protect you.. Arthur.. and if you choose.. to condemn m-me now.. for being ..somethi-ng.. else and different, I will have nothing l-left, but I will have no regrets..b.. because I've done all I can.. and that of w-what was expected of me.. I.. I…" he became very much out of breath and lightheaded from all the talking, he got so unused to, yet he wanted to say what he felt needed telling, despite his vision going blurry once the first tear rolled off to vanish in his hair. He wanted to tell Arthur everything, before his strength might run out. "I.. only.. did .. did it for you.. Arth.." but he was cut short by the surprise as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He tried to look up at the man, but darkness claimed his sight and he felt no longer holding on to awareness.
The king sat by his manservant's cot for some time. Silent and deep in thought. He knew he will have to make a decision before leaving that cell. And it was up to him if he was going to leave that cell alone, or with his servant. Somehow, he already knew the answer, hs just felt he needed a bit more convincing to do.
Did he really hate him? Or was that his upbringing clouding his judgment again. Was he really in need to fear magic and condemn it? to condemn Merlin? After all these years, and all the proof he had given of loyalty..? All that insane amount of proof of reckless loyalty.. Did he really need to think about it…
This man, above anything, was his friend.
He knew what he needed to do: he needed to swallow his pride and do what was right and not what was expected of him by old morals that have long lost their value. His father has lived in fear, and where has that gotten him? He ruled alone, and was feared by all, and that wasn't what Arthur had envisioned for his own reign. And if the druids have been pardoned and they were peaceful, couldn't Merlin be the same? All that the manservant has done throughout the years can't have been an act, and the king was becoming more certain, that magic or not, as foreign as it can be for him, he didn't need to fear it; he didn't need to fear his friend.
Gaze distant, yet scrutinizing the warlock's features, he was somewhat relieved, Merlin wasn't in pain anymore. When he slept he slept deep and resting, not thrashing from nightmares, sweating from fever, moaning from ache, he was pale, but at rest. Thanks to the physician's potions.
It will be a new dawn when he wakes. And it was up to Arthur Pendragon to decide what that dawn will bring for the raven-haired manservant he grown to call his friend; Yes, his friend. Even after all that has happened.
"One day you will learn, one day you will understand just how much they have done for you."
And the old physicians' words from so long ago came to his mind and he understood; he truly understood now, so much as so he felt his eyes sting from it, and didn't bother to wipe the salty drops away. First he felt wronged, but now he understood why Merlin had done what he's done; why he made the decisions he had, and no doubt they were no easy ones to make. Slowly bits and pieces fell to place and he became more and more convinced that what he felt, to have been betrayed and wronged, wasn't really as important. One lie didn't scale against all the hurt that has been caused throughout the years; by his fathers' hands; against all the people, Merlin's people. And he, Arthur too; all the times he openly and hatefully spoke out against magic and those who wield it; and Merlin.. all the times he took blame and wounds instead of Arthur; all the times he pulled him to safety, despite the harsh words and danger; danger to his own life had his secret been discovered. He stayed so close, risked so much; and still he stood by him, and still he served and protected Arthur; and the king now knew what had to be done.
"Guards.." He called out. "Guards!" He repeated a little urging.
It was soft and warm. It was different then his cot. It was big and comfortable. It smelled like a valley full of flowers and a creek; yet warm and welcoming. He heard distant sounds of a town, the people rushing about their everyday lives, so simple and free of dangers. He felt fresh air and even bird songs. He felt rested.
Merlin opened his eyes but needed to blink a couple of times until his sight got used to the light in the room. – Yes, he realized he was in a room; quite a big room.
His book of spells was set on the table, his staff standing in the corner. He was getting confused. Did he die and this is the afterlife? "Agh.." It couldn't be, as one motion reminded him of the injuries on his body. He pressed his palm against his side, realizing only then, that he had nothing on but the bandages around his torso, and he was clean.
His thoughts were interrupted by the door creaking open and he turned to see who it is. Freya perhaps if this is the afterlife.. or his father? But the figure that showed up didn't seem like someone who'd be in the afterlife with. He took a sharp breath and just looked at Arthur.
"You're awake.." He said with a smile growing on his face and slowly approached him.
Merlin just looked at him; wary and uneasy.
"What is this?" he croaked.
"Your room.. I.. I though you might like it." The king said as he walked up to him and sat on the chair posted next to Merlin's bed; - the young man had a feeling, was often occupied by the king, or by the physician, as the small table next to his bed was full of various vials and jars, the tell-tale signs of Gaius at work.
The warlock still had no words and just looked at the blonde confused. There was the unspoken question in the air, and Arthur picked up on it before Merlin could voice it.
"I made a mistake.." Arthur said slowly, while looking at his hands in his lap. "I nearly made an even bigger.. my fathers mistake. And.. I can't say how sorry I am, Merlin..for.. putting you through that.. for putting you though so much.. things I might even not know of.. all these years.."
Merlin shook his head. " 's..okay.."
"No, Merlin. It is not." And all of a sudden the king had a look on him that the warlock felt he can't bare to see on the man, but he squeezed his lips tight and remained quiet as Arthur continued. "I've learnt from my mistake. I've also learnt of some of the things you have done for me; for my father and for Camelot; and I think I will never be able to make it up to you. But I will try. I give you my word, Merlin, that I will try, if.. if you let me."
The warlock just looked on and nodded; too afraid to open his mouth, in fear that his voice might betray him; if he thought his welled up eyes didn't already. He smiled weakly looking at his king.
Arthur smiled and let out a deep sigh of relief, as if he'd been holding his breath for a good while; letting off the tension that's been building up in him for days, while Merlin was laying unconscious. They just sat looking at each other, smiling; so many things needing to be said, yet so little words needed to do so.
Merlin noticed how worn the king looked and he felt something in him; maybe a little relief, maybe a little guilt. But the king was alright, and that's all that mattered to him. As for Arthur to know of his magic and accept him, was still something he couldn't fully comprehend, and had a hunch it doesn't really have anything to do with Gaius's potions in his body.
The king was happy. He got the forgiveness he thought he would never deserve; and had the friendship of the bravest man he ever knew. Arthur's gaze rested on him; he seemed weak and pale, but he was alive, and the blonde thanked all the Gods and spirits, and those around him, for not letting this man slip away from his side. His glance wandered to the rest of him and paused at a slightly whiter patch of skin on his chest, a burn mark no doubt; and he wondered where Merlin got that, when he got that, and how many more he bore on his skin.
"You will need to tell me about those." He said and pointed at it.
Merlin peeked at the mark on his chest and nodded. "I will." he said in a deep voice and smiled. "As you about all this.." he added motioning to the room.
"I think you deserve it. Things are different now."
"No." He shook his head and the king furrowed his brows in confusion. "Nothing has changed, Arthur. I am still me."
"And I want you to be. I want you to always be you." Arthur said hurriedly, but Merlin shook his head and continued.
"I still am who I was and who I will always be. I was born with my magic, it is what makes me who I am. Now that you know about it, it doesn't make me a different person. Besides, I like my place with Gaius."
"Well.. I'd still like you to keep it. Should you feel, you need some time alone, this room will be at your disposal."
"How would that look, Sire? A servant having such a big room in the castle."
"Well, you can't be my servant, Merlin. Not after.."
"I was born to serve you, Arthur.. and I am proud to do that."
The blonde man found he had nothing to counter that. He again felt flooded with relief and joy, and above all gratitude; the same gratitude that mirrored in the warlock's eyes.
"Thank you.." he whispered hoarsely and the silence stretched on.
"Should you be up?" He asked suspiciously eyeing the young man as he strutted in to the royal chambers through the servant's entrance. Arthur fiddled with the sleeve of his shirt.
"Yes!" Merlin exclaimed with determination; eyebrows high and an all familiar smirk on his face and stepped to help the young man win the battle against his shirt sleeve.
"Does Gaius know?" Arthur asked with furrowed brows, somehow dreading the answer he was going to hear, more so as he noted that his manservant was still somewhat pale.
"Gaius.. doesn't need to know." Merlin said. "I will go completely mad with boredom if I have to push the bed for one more day." He said as his attention was set on the shirt, then looked up with a hopeful gaze on his king. "Anything for me to do?"
"Absolutely not! Do you want me to have to face an angry Gaius?" Arthur said with a smirk. "Although.. my sword could use a sharpening." He said and peered at his servant with a mischievous grin.
"Again?" Merlin lifted a brow, but mirroring the grin.
"Come now, Merlin, a king cannot walk around with a dull sword." He tried to sound serious but knew he was failing miserably.
Merlin shook his head in disbelief but kept on smiling. He looked at Arthur long and hard. Taking in his features, and once the king nodded again expectantly, he turned his gaze to the sword on the table, and chanted a spell; and Arthur watched in awe as his friends eyes flashed gold; then his sword obeyed the foreign words and jumped to the air along with the stone and started to sharpen itself.
"You're such a child."
"Shut up, Merlin"