AN: Still don't own.
Last chapter! Sorry for the delay. I was pretty tired when I finished this, so I'm not sure how it turned out. Hope you like it though. I got a review suggestion I add in a part about Merlin's scars, so I did - I like fics that include his scars.
It had been disorienting, to say the least, to be about to be burnt to a crisp and suddenly the spell is broken and someone next to you is yelling. The sensation resembled that of being syanked suddenly backwards through a dark tunnel. The nauseating effect of seeing his worst nightmares played out mixed with that was enough to make Merlin's knees buckle, and he found himself suddenly on the grassy ground. A few moments later, he sensed someone next to him had sank to his knees. He realized a moment later that was Arthur.
Arthur...oh Gods, Arthur...
The king, for his part, was in a state of complete shock. Never would he have imagined that what had seemed like the simple task of watching Merlin's worst fear would lead to this. This knowledge that his mind was rejecting, declaring that it must be false.
But his fear had been dead-on. So Merlin's must have been true as well...
Logically, he should be angry. He should be raging and furious and demanding that Merlin come clean about everything. But then the image of his own rage-filled face filled his mind, along with Merlin's complete and utter terror that followed. And he came to the sickening realization that it would be so, so easy to make Merlin's fear come true. To make him feel that paralyzing horror, not just for his own life, but for their friendship and for the future of Camelot.
His emotions were not organized. They did not lay themselves out neatly for him, making it easier. They swirled and clashed in his head, fighting for his attention. One moment he'd be feeling horrified that he had trusted and, dare he say it, befriended a sorcerer, but less than a heartbeat later he'd register disgust at his actions in Merlin's vision and the pain he'd brought his servant.
Answers. He needed answers. How much had Merlin lied? What had he done that Arthur hadn't noticed? And, most importantly, had he been stupid not to notice?
Because, no matter how much Arthur wanted to believe that Merlin was the exception, that maybe he really could be trusted, the fact remained that he had lied. And even though the vision had assured him that Merlin held no obvious malice towards him, he wasn't sure if he could trust the man again.
No sooner had he registered that burning desire for information did he realize something. He felt a little tugging at his conscious and realized that, though he had broken the dream connection, there was still a trace of it left; a thin thread connecting their minds.
Without thinking, he dove headfirst into Merlin's mind.
Farah, being the source of the connection and was still trying to recover from the sudden tearing of it, sensed what he was about to do and cried out a warning, but it was too late.
It was even worse than being in his own head. He had access to Merlin's entire life, but had no way of searching for anything in particular. He could only stand, paralyzed, as Merlin's memories whizzed by him, for, unlike Farah, he was not trained in working through other's thoughts. His servant's whole life seemed to have been compressed into a frenzied storm that he was now caught in.
Faces flew by him. He recognized Will, Hunith, the knights, even a little boy he saw down in the market sometimes, selling his rough wooden carvings. They often had emotions associated with them. It brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'mood swings.' The sight of Gaius brought about fatherly affection; the knights, a warm burst of friendship. Those weren't so bad. But then out of nowhere would come Morgana's face, and he would recieve a rush of regret, guilt, and wariness for what she had become. He saw a woman who looked vaguely familiar for some reason, and she brought about feelings of love and terrible grief. Balinor as well brought him to tears when his face was accompanied by a near unendurable sense of loss.
Help! he thought desperately. He tried to focus on the next face that came by him, hoping to stop the torrent of memories and emotions.
To his surprise, the storm calmed. The faces slowed to images and became full memories. They still came rapidly, but less so, enough for him to get his bearings slightly first.
The face he had focused on was Morgause, and he saw her stooping to look at him, looking smug. There was an uncomfortable tightness around his torso, and he realized he was chained. Morgause had him captured. She was speaking, and then she left. Time seemed to be going faster than usual, for the sky soon darkened more quickly than was natural. He felt a burning sense of urgency, Morgause was planning to attack Camelot and he needed to get free to he could save his friends, but a rustling sound echoed around him and he was suddenly surrounded by serkets. He frantically tried to keep them at bay, but suddenly a barb embedded itself in his back, and a searing fire spread through him from the spot on his back that radiated raw agony. His stomach churned and his head pounded, but he forced himself to remain conscious and fighting, he couldn't leave Arthur and Camelot defenseless.
It switched suddenly. It was night again, and Cedric was standing before him surrounded by unconscious figures. No, not Cedric...Sigan, who was possessing Cedric. Sigan, the powerful sorcerer of legend, was offering to take over the world with him. They could rule the world, and despite himself he found himself picturing a world where he was in charge, where he could secure his friends' safety, where he wouldn't have to hide. But then Sigan spoke delightfully of having Arthur trembling at his feet, and he didn't want that. Which he told Sigan, firmly.
It changed yet again. Uther lay on his bed, his breathing weak, but he held his bundle of herbs tightly and spoke the words of the Old Religon. He felt confident; he could feel the healing magic working. When Uther opened his eyes, he felt like whooping and jumping in the air(though that probably wouldn't have worked well in his current disguise). He'd done it. He'd saved Uther, and now Arthur would forever remember that magic had saved his father. One day, Arthur would free him.
Then Uther made a sound of pain and his eyes fluttered closed, and all his hope crashed right through the floor, panic taking its place. He watched numbly as Arthur checked and pronounced the king dead. "No..." he found himself saying. He had been sure, so sure it had worked...time seemed to blur together again, and suddenly, he was looking as Arthur sat, staring at a point he couldn't see, informing his servant that he would never again forget that magic took both his parents, oblivious to his servant's own pain.
The scene dissolved and solidified, and he and Morgana were alone in the hall. His heart was pounding so loud he was surprised she didn't hear it as she unknowingly downed the poison. His back was to her, he couldn't stand to watch this. He cursed his magic, his destiny, his fate-bound duty to protect Camelot. It's to save Arthur and Camelot, he told himself. But it didn't stop pain from shooting through his heart as she started to wheeze for breath. He turned in spite of himself, forcing himself to look her in the eyes. They were full of betrayal. Tears now mingled with his sweat. He bent down, reaching towards her, but she pushed him away. He wrapped his arms around her as she lay dying, trying to tell her, without words, how sorry he was, for he didn't trust himself to speak.
Another memory. More and more came, filling him with more pain, more loss. He watched friends die, he watched himself tormented by the bullies of Ealdor who teased him for having no father, he watched his friend unknowingly call him evil, he felt the pain of being inches from death until the tiny part of him in the back of his mind that turned back into Arthur in between memories was desperately wishing he knew how to stop it.
When the world around him began to shift again, he wasn't sure how much more he could take. But when the world came back into focus, he felt a feeling of...contentment. He was sitting on a horse, the prince in front of him. Beside him rode Gwaine, Percival, Lancelot, Elyan and Leon. They were returning from saving a village from a particularly nasty magical beast, and their hearts were light with triumph. The knights were smiling as he traded insults with the prince, snickering when he made a particularly snarky comeback. Whenever he did so, the prince looked back to glare at him, but he couldn't quite hide the fondness.
He wasn't Emrys right now. He wasn't 'that serving boy' to the prince. He was just Merlin. And Merlin had friends. Arthur wasn't his charge, he was his brother. And, though it wasn't neccessary at the moment, he would give his life for him in a heartbeat.
Suddenly, he felt the now-familiar sensation of being sucked through a tunnel. He blinked, finding himself still kneeling in the grass. Farah was looking irritated.
"Yeah, I bet that wasn't fun," she grumbled, seeing his shellshocked face. "Do you know how long it takes to learn to be able to pick a certain thought or memory out of someone else's mind? It takes some serious training! You can't just dive into someone's mind, everyone's mind is different. You can't make sense of it unless you know how. You're lucky I found you and was able to pull you out."
The king was hardly listening. He was staring down at the warlock who still hadn't moved, but Arthur saw the fear on his face...but that wasn't all. There was also confusion in his expression. Arthur suddenly realized his cheeks were wet.
All that...Merlin had done all that for him? He remembered, with painful clarity, the unwavering loyalty with which he repeatedly gave himself up to danger to protect Arthur. The memory of Uther's firm declarations of the evils of magic came to his mind, but they seemed rather feeble in comparison to what he had just seen. He had nothing to fear from Merlin...except, perhaps, that Merlin might get himself killed.
"Was that..." his voice sounded hoarse, and he cleared his throat. "Was all of that real?"
Merlin nodded slowly, still trying to gauge his reaction.
To the servant's surprise, Arthur reached out and pulled his shirt up slightly. There it was. The huge, red scar that took up a good portion of skin on Merlin's front, among a few other, smaller scars. Proof that at least one of the memories had been real. Arthur remembered with the clarity the fireball that had crashed into his(while he was seeing from Merlin's perspective) chest, but the memory had changed before the adrenaline had worn off, and the king could only imagine how much it had hurt on the way back to Camelot.
He turned Merlin over, and the servant offered no resistant. The king shuddered at the hideous mark on the warlock's upper back. He remembered the poison coursing through him like fire, scorching his veins...
Merlin gently pulled his shirt back down and stood. Arthur did the same. Merlin still looked slightly nervous, but more determined now, apparently encouraged by the fact that Arthur hadn't started yelling.
"Arthur, I would hope you would have noticed, what with having seen my memories, but I would never use my magic against you or Camel-"
He broke off as he was suddenly drawn into a tight hug.
"Oh, you idiot," the king sighed, sounding sad, "what am I going to do with you?"
Merlin let out a shaky laugh. "Don't kill me?"
Arthur flinched as he drew back from the hug. He still remembered the paralyzing terror the thought of burning at the stake by way of execution held over his friend and wondered how the servant could joke about it. Now that he knew everything - well, almost everything, he was sure he hadn't covered everything in a few minutes - he felt even worse about the fact that it had been him that had caused Merlin to feel such fear.
"I suppose that's a reasonable request. I suppose I do owe you."
Merlin smiled, a wide, radiant, infectious smile that made Arthur grin in response.
"Thank you," he whispered, tears now welling in his own eyes. He knew his master's joking tone meant everything would be fine.
"I think I should be saying that to you," the king replied. "Mind you, I'm still going to expect a full explanation." He was still uneasy, he was still greatly hurt that Merlin hadn't told him, but he had seen how Merlin had carried the risk of death with him all his life, and how he had been raised to know that secrets meant survival.
Just like he had been raised to think anyone magical was evil.
His servant nodded. They stood there for a moment in silence, processing what had just happened.
"Shall we continue on the quest, sire?"
Arthur blinked. He had completely forgotten their mission. "Of course."
It was then that they looked around and realized Farah had disappeared. Shrugging, Arthur went back for their horses. A glow of Merlin's eyes and the bridge was fit for them to ride across, and they continued on their way, Merlin absolutely glowing with happiness that a huge weight had been lifted from him.
Meanwhile, a sorceress smiled smugly as she watched the scene between the Once and Future King and Emrys in her scrying crystal.
What do you think? Was Arthur fairly accurate?