Definitions of a Traitor (part two)
Characters: Arthur, Gwaine, Merlin
Warnings: possible disappointment? I dunno, I'm nervous.
Summary: Merlin tries to make Arthur see reason.
A/N: Oh god, sorry, late again. More computer troubles. But luckily my school laptop has finally been replaced, so it should be smooth sailing from here on. Now. About this chapter. I'll admit I'm worried. Turns out reveals are a huge pressure to get right. I really appreciated all your support for the first half, and I'm glad you guys liked what I'd done so far, but I'm worried some of you may change your mind with this one. And I realise I could have put a lot more into this, but I do want to keep these stories to a relatively short length, what with them being a collection. Maybe, as suggested by a reviewer, I'll get around to making longer versions of some of these stories. That would be fun, I think :)
"Seize them both."
Merlin, who had been steadily watching the ground throughout the exchange, heard the screech of metal as Gwaine unsheathed his sword, echoed by others doing the same. No. He'd had enough. No more conflict, not today. Not over him.
"Stop!" he yelled as he stood with a great deal more authority than he was feeling. Gwaine paused and looked back at him hesitantly and, surprisingly, so did the guards and few knights that had immediately moved to follow their king's orders. Those of the round table had remained still, though most of them looked uncertain and Elyan looked quite ready to jump in and help. "Please. Stop." It was a quiet plea, and yet all listened with baited breath. "I'll come quietly, just… please." One bony hand gestured to the almost-forgotten bodies that lay behind them. "There's been enough bloodshed."
With a nod from Arthur the guards advanced to restrain Merlin and Gwaine, who remained slack but unhappy. He watched his magical friend be manhandled with anger and turned back to the king. "You're an idiot," he spat as the two were dragged away.
Arthur watched with hard eyes, not following even as they were led out of the room.
"I'm going to get you of here, Merlin." Merlin looked up from where he sat, leaning against the hard wall of his cell, to see Gwaine looking determined in the one opposite. "I'm not going to let you die."
Merlin almost smiled at his friend's determination, warmed by his loyalty, but still his lips only managed a twitch.
"You don't believe me, do you?" asked Gwaine, that unusual look of seriousness still on his handsome features. "Well, I'll admit it might be difficult." He paused. "For me, anyway."
There was no denying the pointed look he shot at Merlin, but Merlin only shook his head in response. Yes, getting out of these cells would probably be relatively easy. But he couldn't just run away. He couldn't leave Arthur, even now. It would only confirm all of Arthur's misguided beliefs. He had to stay, try and talk to him, and if Arthur didn't listen, well…
He would have to listen.
Gwaine opened his mouth, no doubt more encouragement on his lips, but there was something Merlin had to know.
"Why are you doing this?"
Gwaine stopped, looking genuinely confused. "Doing what?"
"Standing up for me. You… you committed treason today, Gwaine."
The rogue knight, unlike Merlin, actually did grin. "Hell, Merlin, I thought it was simple." Merlin raised an eyebrow. "You're my friend."
Merlin was silent as he let this sink in; he'd always known they were friends, of course, but just like with all the knights, with Arthur, with Gwen, everyone, he had never known if it would still be that way once they found out. To have it confirmed that yes, there was someone else who accepted him was… well. It made Merlin's heart swell, even in the midst of such depression.
"I'll make sure you're not punished for this," he said determinedly, and unwittingly echoed Gwaine's earlier words. "I'll get you out of here."
The way Gwaine was scrutinising him forced Merlin to look away. "And what of yourself?" Merlin studied his hands and didn't answer. "Merlin - "
Gwaine quickly snapped his mouth shut at the sound of approaching footsteps and around the corner came Arthur, alone. With a nod of dismissal the two guards stationed outside the captives' cells quickly left, forever silent and obedient. Something the two prisoners had never learned themselves.
"Arthur - " tried Merlin at the same time Gwaine leapt to his feet and shouted "you listen to me!"
Arthur held up his hand and turned away from his knight, instead facing his servant. He looked down at Merlin through the bars, and Merlin tried desperately not to outwardly cringe at the steel in his eyes. There was a long, tense moment of silence, before finally, Arthur let out a deep breath and spoke.
"Gods, but that was a close one."
Merlin looked up at his king so fast his neck cricked. If he didn't know better, Arthur almost sounded… relieved?
"I mean for goodness sake Merlin, you couldn't have maybe saved the fact that you're a powerful bloody sorcerer for when half of Camelot wasn't watching?" Merlin's jaw dropped at Arthur's casual reprimanding. "What the hell am I going to tell all those people calling for your blood?"
Gwaine managed to regain his senses quicker than Merlin. "So wait, you're not…"
"Going to execute him? No, I think I'd rather not breaking in a new manservant, thank you."
Gwaine spluttered and Merlin continued to stare. "But - but that whole - in the throne room, and you - "
"I couldn't very well congratulate him, could I? Sorcery is illegal, in case you've forgotten." Arthur crouched down to Merlin's level. The younger man appeared to be in a state of shock. "Which brings me to my main point - Merlin, you idiot, what were you thinking? Practicing sorcery?"
When Merlin again failed to answer, Gwaine frowned. "I think you may have broken him, mate."
Sighing, Arthur unlocked the door to the cell and reached Merlin, reaching out to grab one of his arms. When Merlin flinched away slightly, he couldn't deny that hurt, just a little. "Merlin. Snap out of it, come on." Giving up, he brought his hand around and cuffed Merlin up the back of the head. Finally he got a response; looking up at his friend and saying in a quiet, uncertain voice,
"I don't understand."
Arthur sighed again and sat down next to Merlin, facing Gwaine but not really seeing him. "I was mad, Merlin. Of course I was. Still am, if it comes to that. You know how dangerous magic can be, you've seen how it can corrupt people, you - " he stopped and forced himself to slow down. "But as if I could ever believe you'd be plotting against me. Really. Give me some credit." He could practically feel Merlin sag with relief beside him, their arms just lightly brushing together.
"Arthur," Merlin breathed, and the king almost felt uncomfortable with the gratitude in his servant's voice. "Thank you. Thank you, I - "
"It'll have to stop, of course."
Merlin froze. "What?"
Arthur looked at him incredulously. "Are you daft? Of course it will have to stop. I'm not letting you get involved in that stuff. This isn't just about some law you're breaking, Merlin - which I will not be forgetting any time soon by the way. Magic is dangerous. It's dark. It's not worth meddling with."
Merlin remained silent, his mind whirring. He could just agree with Arthur, let it go, pretend that was all it was. A little harmless dabbling. No more. He could just say he'd stop, and that would be the end of it. This whole nightmare would be over. They could just… go back to how things were. Arthur would be sore he had lied and gone behind his back, but Merlin was sure he could rebuild his friend's trust. With time.
"Magic is evil, Merlin."
"No it's not." Merlin was vaguely aware of Gwaine staring at him like he was crazy, but he was focused on his king - looking him dead in the eyes with all the conviction he could muster. Arthur, too, was staring at him, and hints of anger were beginning to re-emerge. "It's not evil, and I can't stop practicing it."
"Do not fight me on this, Merlin," and Arthur's voice promised consequences.
"You don't understand, Arthur. I can't."
Gwaine tried stepping in. "Merlin," he hissed warningly.
Arthur stood up, back to the cold exterior he had worn in the throne room. "If you refuse to follow our laws, there is nothing I can do for you." He stepped out and shut the cell door loudly behind him. "You have betrayed me. You say you plan to continue betraying me." He shook his head sadly and began to walk back down the hall. "In that case, I'm not sure there's anything I want to do for you."
Merlin leapt up and against the bars of the cell, desperate to make him listen. Please let him listen. "I was born with it!"
It was Arthur's turn to freeze. "What?"
"I… I was born with it," Merlin replied, much quieter. "I was making things float before I could walk or talk. I once turned a pile of wheat into a bunch of wildflowers for my mum and didn't even realise. At the age of three I learnt to light fires with my mind because it was cold and mum was too sick to get firewood." He paused, trembling, more unsure than he ever had been before. Finally, in a whisper, he said, "don't tell me that's evil."
Gwaine was staring at him with an unidentifiable twinkle in his eye. Arthur turned to face him, his expression carefully blank. "That's impossible. No one's born with magic."
Merlin fought hard with himself to keep from looking away, or at Gwaine. He was aware this could change things with him as well. "I was. I didn't choose this, Arthur, I was given it, and to stop using magic altogether…" Merlin shuddered and thought of that week once when he was young when Will had gotten angry and called him a freak, and he had tried to stop using magic. The results had not been pleasant. "It would kill me. It would physically destroy me."
There was a long and tense silence. Merlin could practically see his friend's mind working. But he could only take the tension for so long, and soon found himself talking again. "I know you've seen dark magic in your time. I, too, have seen what it can do to the ones you love." Merlin paused, thinking mournfully of Freya, of Balinor, of Lancelot. "But you haven't seen what wonders magic can do. You haven't seen it or felt it the way I have. It doesn't all have to be bad. It doesn't make me bad. Please understand that, Arthur."
And still Arthur did not answer. Sighing, Merlin raised one hand.
Arthur drew his sword quicker than lightening. "Don't - " but he made no move to actually use it.
With a shimmer of gold from Merlin's bright blue eyes, the flame of one of the nearby torches suddenly began to twist and flicker until it was rising, floating in the air. Two pairs of eyes were drawn to it as it began to twirl around and in on itself, making strange shapes that caused shadows to bounce off the walls. Arthur's sword lowered slightly as he stared, watching, and the flame soon became that of a familiar shape; the Pendragon crest, glowing brightly.
"I'm not evil," said Merlin quietly, and wished he sounded more confident.
Arthur turned back to him and Merlin closed his fist, letting the fire die out into smoke.
"Mate," muttered Gwaine, and he sounded amused, even excited.
Merlin glanced at him with a nervous smile before looking back to Arthur and holding his stare. Finally, finally, Arthur spoke.
"Born with magic?" Merlin nodded, and Arthur's sword lowered all the way until the tip scraped the ground. "But you're…" Merlin cringed. A traitor? A liar? ...Evil? "But you're so Merlin."
Merlin furrowed his eyebrows. "...What?"
"You're Merlin. You're plain and clumsy and a bloody idiot. How did you get something so special as to be born with magic?"
Merlin couldn't help the twitch of his lips. "How did a clotpole like you become king?"
"Watch it," said Arthur warningly, but the sword remained lowered and Merlin felt just a little bit more confident than he had been. After a moment, Arthur sighed and sheathed his weapon once more. "I… I need to think on this."
Merlin nodded, unsurprised but just that little bit hopeful. Arthur nodded in return and turned on his heel, walking back the way he had come. Merlin didn't stop him this time around. He needed time. Merlin could give him that. He would give him anything he could to make this work.
It was a few minutes before the silence was broken, and Merlin couldn't help but notice the guards hadn't been returned to their posts. He wondered what Arthur had said to them.
A small pebble landed near Merlin's feet and he looked up, dragging himself out of his thoughts, to look at a grinning Gwaine. "When he lets us out of here, Merlin, we are going to have so much fun."
Merlin smiled and listened as Gwaine began rattling off a long list of pranks they could now achieve with this revelation, but his mind was mostly stuck on what his friend had said first. 'When' he lets us out of here. Not 'if'. Gwaine seemed confident Arthur was going to come round. And, thinking about it, a small part of him felt the same way.
Arthur wasn't his father. Maybe, finally, the ruler of Camelot would see reason. Maybe Albion was finally close at hand.
And then, well. Anything was possible.
I actually almost did have Merlin pretend he was just practicing it and would stop, have things go relatively back to normal. But I figured that wouldn't go down well with you wonderful readers :P I really am sorry if this wasn't what you had been hoping for. At least my first reveal is finally done! Whew!
Okay, now, help me choose what to do next; Haunted!Merlin, Angry!Merlin, someone from Merlin's past, or an Intentions (where the lady tried to drug Merlin and put him into slavery) AU? I'll be doing them all eventually, as most of them are prompts, but I'm happy to hear what you guys want first. Unless I get randomly enthusiastic and decide to update before you get a chance to tell me. Though really, I should update MOEL first, kind of left people hanging with that one... they're all sharpening their pitchforks.