#elyan: look at the screen. that’s your man
Soul-stealer Part 2 (Final Part)
The aftermath; Arthur and the Gang fret, and Merlin wakes up to find that a lot has changed in a few short days.
Unsurprisingly to Arthur and Lancelot, the moment they open the door, they are met by a gaggle of scared and desperate looking knights, all babbling at once and demanding answers.
Gwen had also joined them at some point. Whether someone sent for her, or she just happened to be awake, the two men don’t know, but don’t really care enough to ask.
Arthur just rubs his eyes tiredly, shutting the door behind him. Lancelot notices the King’s exhaustion and worry, and subtly steps in front of him, happy to deal with the talking for now.
He gives the others a placating smile and holds his hands out, gesturing at them to be quiet:
“He’ll be fine, he’s just exhausted. Gaius says he probably won’t wake up for a few days. We’ll post some guards right outside the door, and he’ll send for us if anything changes, for now, we should all get some rest; we still have to report to the council in the morning, no matter how worried we are.”
Percival and Elyan give shaky smiles, but trust Lancelot’s words, and traipse off in the direction of the knights’ quarters. Leon nods, but looks to Arthur worriedly, and steps around Lancelot to put a hand on his shoulder. Arthur looks up at him in surprise, but pats the hand on his shoulder and gives the First Knight a reassuring, though weak, smile. Leon returns it, and with that, he follows the others down the corridor, heading to his own chambers.
Once he turns the corner, Arthur’s gaze drops to the floor again, and he leans against the wall behind him, clenching his hands tightly in an effort to stop the shaking.
Gwaine and Gwen are a little more reluctant to leave.
Lancelot was well aware that Gwen knew about Merlin’s magic (not that anyone else knew that, least of all Merlin), and he sends a loving smile to her in comfort. She weakly responds with a smile of her own, before nodding her head slightly at Gwaine.
Lance’s smile drops as he looks to the other knight, the man in question being the most serious and withdrawn either of them have ever seen him before:
“Gaius promises that he’ll be fine. We can’t help him if we’re exhausted, Gwaine, we need to get some sleep.”
Gwaine lets out a long breath, gulping before seeming to sag slightly, looking to the floor as he mumbles an agreement. He allows Gwen to squeeze his hand briefly, before he gives the two of them a tight smile, and walks stiffly the way Leon, Elyan, and Percival had gone (after sending an out-of-character concerned glance Arthur’s way. The King doesn’t notice).
Gwen sighs and gives Lancelot a fond, reassuring smile. He raises an eyebrow at first, but then nods in understanding, glancing back at Arthur before walking tiredly towards his and Gwen’s shared chambers.
The woman waits until the knight has turned the corner, before finally turning around to face The King. He looks up at her, his face tense and eyes teary, and she sighs, before pulling him into a hug.
He tenses at first, but she squeezes tighter, and begins running a hand through his hair softly, ignoring the sharp pain of his armour digging into her skin. Arthur finally relaxes, accepting the comfort of a friend, and hugs her back, burying his face in her hair and trying desperately to stop himself from crying.
Gwen lets out a deep breath, and mumbles comfortingly in The King’s ear:
“You have to trust Gaius, Arthur. Merlin will be fine.”
Arthur tightens his hold on her, thumping his head against her shoulder softly in frustration, before saying:
“I know, that... that’s not the point, I... I’ve been so wrong. How could I have been so wrong for so many years? How could I let Merlin be so scared?”
Gwen bites her lip, taking a few moments to respond, not once loosening her hold on her friend:
“You couldn’t have known, Arthur. Everything he does, he does to protect us, you.”
Arthur finally pulls away and slumps against the wall, tightly wrapping his arms around his middle in a display of vulnerability that Gwen has never seen before, but will never mention to anyone.
She steps back, understanding implicitly that what Arthur needs now is a comforting presence and a listening ear.
The King stays silent for a few moments, gathering his thoughts, before he roughly shakes his head and huffs, looking up at Gwen:
“I know that. I think I’ve always known that. But what else don’t I know? What other lies did my father ingrain into my head? How many innocents have I killed, how many people are scared of me, because I allowed myself to be fooled by my father’s apparently misplaced hatred?-”
Tears finally overflow and his voice cracks as he continues:
“-He was so scared, Gwen. When we got him back in one piece, he... it didn’t matter what we had said to him earlier, he was so scared. How did I let that happen? It... It’s Merlin, how did I not notice that Merlin was so constantly afraid?”
Gwen leans against the opposite wall, gripping the front of her dress tightly to stop herself from fidgeting. She lets out a deep sigh, glancing briefly to the floor before meeting Arthur’s gaze once more, tears in her eyes:
“We all missed it, Arthur. Merlin is... a master at deception, lying, hiding his pain. I catch glimpses of it sometimes, I think we all do. A bruise here, an odd excuse there, the occasional mournful look on his face when he thinks none of us are looking. But Merlin has always been there, for all of us. He’s just this... constant, reassuring presence, ready to help or comfort at a moment’s notice. We all rely on him so heavily, I don’t think we even notice sometimes; none of us wanted to see the cracks, none of us wanted to see how sad, or scared, or angry, he was. So we didn’t. We all failed him, Arthur, but now? Now, we’re all going to make it right.”
She finishes with a firm nod, her voice stronger with her decisive last sentence. Arthur gives a resigned sigh, still looking doubtful, but before he can respond a look of realisation crosses Gwen’s face, and she tilts her head, speaking softly:
“You love him, don’t you?”
Arthur tenses his jaw slightly, almost denying it with a scoff, but instead, he sags once more and rubs his eyes harshly with the palms of his hands before looking up at her:
“Yeah, I... I think I do, I think I have for a while. And I didn’t even notice until he looked me in the face, and all I could see was how scared he was. Of me. Of what I... what he thought I would do to him. He’s the kindest, least evil person I’ve ever met, and I’m the one that made him that afraid. What does that say about me, Guinevere?”
Gwen just sighs. She knows Arthur is a good person, but there is also no denying that he was wrong in his persecution of magic, and how do you comfort a man who has just realised the atrocities he has unknowingly supported? Committed himself?
She steps towards him again, taking his hand and pulling him from the wall, settling a soft kiss to his cheek:
“Come on, Arthur. Lets get you to bed. Lance is right, you’ll still need to speak to the council in a few hours and you can’t do that whilst you’re dead on your feet.”
Arthur gulps, and sends one last worried, longing glance to the door behind him, Gwen just chuckles fondly:
“I’ll wake you up slightly early so you can check in on him before the meeting starts, how about that?”
The King finally sends her a smile that looks, though weak, genuine, and nods his head. With that, Gwen leads her friend to his chambers, quietly turning down his bed and getting a fire going as he retreats behind the changing screen.
She works slowly, dallying around the room. It goes unspoken, but both of them know that she won’t leave until Arthur is settled in bed, and she’s certain he will stay there once she goes. He finally crawls under the covers, and his exhaustion shows clearly; his head hits the pillow and Gwen barely has time to sweep the hair away from his eyes before he’s spark out, sleeping fitfully.
She sends one last concerned look towards her friend, before stifling a yawn and leaving the chambers, softly shutting the door behind her and eagerly heading to collapse in her husband’s arms
Gaius was, of course, correct in his assessment that Merlin wouldn’t wake up for a few days.
That didn’t stop Arthur from checking in multiple times a day, someone else in the Gang usually joining him.
Unfortunately, Arthur’s sudden announcement to the council that he fully intended to legalise magic, whether they wanted him to or not, meant he was stuck in meetings all day when Merlin did finally awake.
Gwen and Elyan were sat at his bedside when he opened his eyes. He’d been moved to the bed in his own room, once Gaius assured everyone that he was in no danger; said Physician was bustling around in the next room, busy as always, trusting that Gwen and Elyan would fetch him if Merlin’s condition changed.
Gwen felt the twitch in her hands and looked from her brother to Merlin’s face in concern, to see his eyelashes fluttering, before finally opening blearily.
She gasps, and squeezes Merlin’s hand tighter as she glances up at Elyan, quickly telling him to go fetch Gaius, and to send the guards to find the others.
The Knight runs a calloused but soft hand over Merlin’s forehead before rushing out of the room. Gwen doesn’t pay attention to the hushed words being exchanged on the other side of the door, not even looking up when Gaius bursts in, various potions in his hands.
Merlin groans quietly; Gwen lifts her other hand to cup his cheek and leans over him, smiling.
Gaius takes the chair Elyan had been in as the knight walks back in, nodding at Gwen’s questioning gaze. Merlin groans again, waving his other hand around aimlessly, seeming to relax when Gaius takes it in his own.
Gwen chuckles at him slightly, and Merlin’s confused, tired eyes find her as she softly speaks:
“Welcome back Merlin, you had us all worried. Arthur is in a meeting right now, but he’ll be here soon, I’m sure. He and the knights have been fretting endlessly.”
Merlin’s eyes close again as he smiles slightly, but they open wide a second later, a panicked look on his face. Elyan, from his spot stood behind his sister, leans over, putting a soft but forceful hand on his shoulder as he tries to sit up, and speaks quickly:
“It’s alright, Merlin. We meant what we said, you’re perfectly safe. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a lot of questions-”
Gwen looks back at him disapprovingly, and swats his leg with her hand:
“-but we’re just glad you’re ok. Get better, you can tell us all about your secret heroics later, alright?”
Merlin relaxes, lifting a shaking hand to pat Elyan’s own softly, nodding and giving him a weak but grateful smile.
Elyan returns it, before quietly telling Gaius that he’ll wait for the others in the main room, and silently walking out the door. Merlin, now with a little more energy, coughs slightly before mumbling:
“How long was I out?”
The two of them help him into a sitting position, Gwen quickly taking his hand again as Gaius uncorks the first of three potions, and answers:
“Your soul was... ah, reassembled in the evening of Monday. It’s now Thursday afternoon of the same week. Drink this.”
Merlin takes one whiff of the potion after nodding, and grimaces as he tries to push Gaius’ hand away. The Physician just raises a challenging eyebrow, and Gwen tuts; Merlin rolls his eyes in response, taking the potion with a huff and gulping it down in one, a disgusted look on his face.
He takes the other two in quick succession, knowing that there was no point in trying to refuse; Gaius’ Eyebrow of Doom, he could just about manage to resist, but Gwen’s disapproving and worried gaze could never be endured for long.
He was rewarded with a goblet of water and a pat on the back from Gaius, and another friendly smile and squeeze of the hand from Gwen.
The servant opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, he tensed up, tightening his hold on her hand as his now worried gaze moved to the door.
Gwen frowns at him, stroking his hand gently as she says:
“Merlin? What’s wrong?”
Merlin just gulps, glancing at Gaius quickly before looking to Gwen, and then back at the door:
“He’s coming, I can feel it. Arthur.”
Gwen relaxes again, back to smiling as she shakes her head softly:
“You have nothing to worry about, Merlin. He’s spent the last three days on a warpath against the council, trying to repeal the ban on magic. That is, of course, between bouts of panicking about whether you were going to be ok. Really Merlin, you should’ve seen him when the knights got you back here, he was so scared for you.”
Merlin looks at her doubtfully, and squeezes her hand as they hear the door to the Physician’s chambers bang open:
“You’re sure he’s not angry?”
His quiet, scared tone of voice brings tears to Gwen’s eyes; if she knew how frightened he was, she would have told him that she knew about his magic years ago. She gives him the strongest smile she can manage and nods firmly as she strokes his cheek softly with her free hand:
Merlin bites his lip nervously, but returns her nod and looks to the door expectantly. Gaius strokes a hand through his hair before going to the door at the sound of muffled, desperate voices on the other side.
The Physician opens the door just as Arthur reaches it, Leon and Lancelot a hair’s breadth behind him, presumably having come from the same meeting. Gaius raises an amused, though fond, eyebrow, before wordlessly standing aside and allowing the three men to rush into the room (Elyan waiting in the other room for Gwaine and Percival to be fetched from training).
Despite Merlin’s internal insistence that he wouldn’t cry, tears fill his eyes at the sight of his friends looking so worried. Arthur exclaims his name, his tone an odd mix of relief at seeing him awake and concern at his well-being.
The King rushes forward, and Merlin barely has time to gasp before he’s being wrapped in a tight. Gwen lets go of his hand, sitting back in her chair as Lancelot stands behind her, a fond smile on his face as he gently rubs her shoulders. Leon visibly relaxes at the sight of Merlin hesitatingly returning Arthur’s hug, though Gaius tuts, unhappy with the way his patient was being jostled around so much.
The longer the hug goes on, the tighter Merlin grips Arthur’s tunic, and the closer to spilling his tears he gets. He had been so worried, so scared, but Gwen was right: everyone really had been fretting.
Arthur finally pulls back, but before he can say anything Gwaine bursts into the room, closely followed by an equally worried looking Percival, and a fondly smirking Elyan.
Gwaine pushes in front of Arthur (who huffs indignantly before moving back) and wraps Merlin in a tight hug of his own, holding the servant’s head close to his chest, and murmuring:
“Bloody hell Merlin. Took you long enough, we were all starting to freak out a bit.-”
He leans back, but perches on the edge of the bed and keeps his hands on Merlin’s shoulders:
“-Though to be fair, Princess here has been freaking the whole time.”
Arthur huffs again, louder this time, and Merlin throws a glance his way. Before he can say anything, Gwaine is roughly shoved to the floor (with a very undignified yelp) by Leon, who says-
- as he pulls Merlin into a brief hug, before sitting back and patting him on the shoulder a few times with a soft smile on his face:
“Glad to have you back, my friend, we’ve missed you.”
The servant returns his smile, and Leon gives him a nod, standing and moving back only to be replaced by Percival.
The biggest of the knights doesn’t fit on the edge of the bed, at least not without slipping off or crushing Merlin’s legs, so he settles for leaning over and pulling him up into a tight hug. Gaius tuts again, but no one pays him any mind; if they were actually hurting Merlin or causing any damage, he would say so.
He finally drops Merlin with a mischievous grin, and ruffles his hair before moving back. Lancelot leans over Gwen to squeeze his best friend’s shoulder; the grin on his face mirroring Merlin’s teary one. The knight leans back again and Arthur pushes himself to the front of the crowd once more, reminding everyone just how much of a tight fit it was to have six bulky knights, and two others, in a room where a tiny single bed took up most of the space (The King made a mental note to have Merlin, as the soon-to-be-appointed Court Sorcerer, moved to bigger chambers, and to give Gaius a bigger bed).
Merlin’s smile drops a little, but Arthur lets out a deep breath and perches on the edge of the bed, taking Merlin’s hand in his own with only a slight blush.
He gulps, and if he’d payed any attention he would have noticed almost everyone else in the room rolling their eyes as he opened and closed his mouth, not knowing what to say.
Merlin, having finally convinced himself that he was safe, at least for now, simply raises an eyebrow at him, and Arthur can hear Gwaine snorting behind him, breaking him out of his speechless stupor:
“It’s good to have you back, Merls. The council are being predictably difficult and I miss your sarky comments in my ear.”
Leon purses his lips and nods in agreement, obviously getting just as frustrated with the slow pace the council was moving at as Arthur was. Lancelot just smirks and rolls his eyes at their dramatics.
Merlin’s smile grows again, and he quirks an eyebrow:
“Aww. You missed me, Sire?”
Arthur just lets out a short laugh and shakes his head, before looking back up at Merlin softly, and gulping:
“More than you know.”
Gwen stands abruptly, taking Lancelot’s hand, and gesturing to the door pointedly:
“I think that’s our cue to go. Lancelot, Leon, why don’t you catch the rest of us up on how the meeting was going?”
Leon nods knowingly, giving Arthur a pat on the shoulder before leaving the room, closely followed by Elyan. Gwaine smirks, and opens his mouth to say something presumably vulgar, but Percival huffs and clamps a hand over his mouth before pushing him out of the door. The two of them are followed by a laughing Lancelot and Gwen. Gaius looks to Arthur with an unreadably expression on his face, before saying in a deadpan tone:
“Not too much... ah, activity, he’s still weak and needs rest. The walls in these chambers are also not all that soundproof so... be mindful of that.”
The Physician ignores Arthur’s surprised blinking and Merlin’s deep blush, getting to the door just in time to stop Gwaine (who’d poked his head through to say something, again, presumably vulgar) with a hand on his face and a quick shove.
Arthur and Merlin chuckle slightly at the sound of Gwaine falling backwards down the steps with a high-pitched squeal, but quieten, looking to their laps awkwardly as the door shuts behind Gaius.
Merlin’s hand is still clutched tightly in Arthur’s, but he doesn’t pull away, looking up with a gulp, the worried expression back on his face. Arthur meets his gaze, biting his lip and furrowing his eyebrows worriedly.
“I’m so sorr-”
They both try to break the silence at the same time, but where Merlin chuckles slightly, Arthur frowns, having heard what Merlin was trying to say. He squeezes his hand tighter, and speaks forcefully:
“Don’t you dare apologise Merlin. I’m the one that should be sorry.-”
Merlin frowns, sitting up straighter and opening his mouth to retort, but Arthur shakes his head roughly:
“-No, Merlin. I should be, and I am. I am so sorry that you had to live in fear, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, but no more. I’m fixing it I promise. I’m repealing the ban, and you don’t have to scared anymore, none of your people do, I swear it, in the name of Camelot.”
The tears finally overflow from Merlin’s eyes and he throws himself forward, clutching Arthur tightly and silently crying into his shoulder. Arthur returns the hug without hesitation, running a soft hand up and down the other man’s back and whispering apologies and reassurances in his ear.
Merlin pulls back after what feels like hours, wiping his eyes with his sleeve and smiling slightly when Arthur takes his hand again. His face falls into a frown once more, and he looks up to The King nervously:
“Still. Perhaps if I’d told you earlier, all of this could have been avoided. I shouldn’t have lied for so long, I shouldn’t have been such a cowa-”
Arthur interrupts him:
“No, Merlin. You should never feel bad for protecting yourself in a Kingdom that should, by law, see you burn just for existing. It is not your responsibility to put your life on the line just to help a grown man reach a moral conclusion that he really should’ve been able to reach himself.”
Merlin sighs, but nods at Arthur’s imploring face. He relaxes back against the wall and Arthur smiles softly, lifting a hand to stroke the side of his face. Both of them blush slightly, but neither pull away as Arthur quietly speaks:
“We’ve got a lot to talk about Merls, but you should get some rest, we’ve got plenty of time.”
Merlin nods, eyes blinking blearily as he yawns, just now realising how tired he is. He shuffles down in the bed so his head rests on the pillow again, but doesn’t let go of Arthur’s hand, even as he stands up to move to Gwen’s chair. Merlin tugs his hand slightly towards him, shuffling over in the bed:
“Will you stay?”
Arthur looks down at him, a soft smile on his face as he nods. He lets go of Merlin’s hand, but only so he can climb under the covers, settling with his back against the wall. Merlin rolls between the King’s legs, laying with his head on Arthur’s stomach as he sighs contentedly, one hand hanging off the edge of the bed, and the other back to being held by Arthur.
Arthur smiles down at him, running his free hand through the man’s hair as he softly speaks, so quiet, Merlin almost misses it:
“Always. It’s good to have you back in one piece, Merlin.”
I hope y’all liked it, I really enjoyed writing such an alternate magic-reveal, so thanks anon for the idea!!
Head over to This List to let me know what y’all want next!!
To Serve a King
Prompt: hey there! i absolutely adore your writing! i have reread them for the 3rd time since i found your fics! if you have time or any desire to do this at all i had a prompt for you! picture this! small moments in which merlin (and the knights obviously) protect arthur! they've seen him at his most vulnerable, merlin more than the others so i thought it would be so interesting and a good read (although everything you write is a good read) -bonk
Read on Ao3
Warnings: panic attacks, anxiety attacks, minor character death but that happens off-screen, uther pendragon being an asshole and arthur dissociating
Pairings: merthur, can be platonic or romantic i don’t care
Word Count: 3563
A King is as much a people's servant as the people are his. A King is just as much a person as his people are.
Sometimes he needs to be reminded that, as a person, he is allowed (and expected) to ask for help.
“I would like,” Arthur declares as the gauntlet falls to the ground for the fifth time, “to talk to the man who invented these and why he designed them to be so bloody difficult to put on with one hand. What, does he imagine I’m supposed to detach my own hand and put it in front of me? At least some of this is made with the understanding that ‘oh, a man’s only going to have one hand when he puts this on. Surely, it would make sense, then, to design it to be easy to do with only one hand?’”
“The compromise,” says the empty tent which should be empty, this is his private tent, which should be private, which means it should be empty, “for ensuring it won’t fall off when you need to stay on.”
Arthur freezes, shame and mortification flooding his face to the tips of his ears as he hears Elyan’s voice behind him. He opens his mouth, trying in vain to come up with something to say to save face, make an excuse, blame Merlin—Merlin isn’t here, you idiot, you can’t blame him when he isn’t even here—when Elyan’s hands take the gauntlet from the ground.
“I remember having the same conversation with my dad,” Elyan says as if he didn’t just stumble into the Crown Prince pouting like a child who couldn’t put his shoes on the right feet, “when he was demonstrating how to put the armor on and he needed someone else to come and help.”
“Why didn’t he let you help,” Percival asks—great, how many people are here to witness his shame?—“if you were supposed to be learning?”
“I was a shrimp of a sprog,” Elyan says wryly, “I’m pretty sure the breastplate was the size of my torso and head and arms.”
Percival snorts as he begins to fix the sloppy buckles at Arthur’s back. Part of him wants to snap that they’re fine, to leave them be, but he had the importance of fixing one’s armor on right drilled into him when he was barely old enough to heft a practice sword. “Did that mean you couldn’t lift it off the ground?”
“Oi! I’ll have you know I was plenty strong as a boy, just ask Gwen.”
“So then what was your excuse?”
“Gwen used to hide behind them when we played hide-and-seek,” Elyan says, slipping Arthur’s wrist between the metal and leather, “I was to make sure she wasn’t hiding and distracting me while Father was teaching us.”
“Did that work?”
“Oh, enough for me to learn what I needed to when I was that old.”
Percival grins. “So not at all, then.”
“We got the basics,” Elyan defends, reaching to fix the other gauntlet, “and then we successfully got my father to start looking for us instead of demonstrating while running around with his armor half fixed on.”
Percival laughs again and Elyan laughs too, shaking his head.
“It was almost worth the lecture we got, just to see Gwen running around with a breastplate over her shoulder like a turtle and my father chasing after her.” He adjusts the last strap and moves on to making sure the fingers fit right. “After that, he made sure to bring only one piece at a time. That was when I asked about doing it with one hand.”
He looks up at Arthur as he speaks, moving the glove carefully.
“My father told me a story about a man who bragged that he could put on and take off all of his armor with one hand. He was bragging in front of a group of older knights and one of them stood up and tugged on one of the straps.”
Arthur swallows. “What happened?”
“Oh, the whole thing fell off of him, all over the floor.” Elyan chuckles. “He made sure to have someone help him every day after that.”
The mental image of an entire set of armor falling off just like that is enough for Arthur to laugh too. He feels Percival tuck one last thing into place over his shoulder and nod.
“It’s our pleasure, sire,” Elyan says as he nods and steps away, “and our duty to ensure you’re safe.”
“Best not tell anyone else about that story, then,” Arthur grins as he picks up his sword, “lest they start getting ideas.”
“Oh, I’m the blacksmith,” Elyan says. “I’m the one with all the ideas.”
“Should I be worried about giving you my armor, then?”
“You? Never, sire, but perhaps some of the other knights should.”
“These wouldn’t happen to be the knights that snuck into the quarters and stole your food, would they?”
“I’d prefer not to answer that question, sire.”
Percival laughs, a loud and booming thing. “And they think that Gwaine’s the one they need to watch out for.”
Arthur has never realized how much the stench of ale isn’t necessarily the strongest smell in the world, but it gets absolutely everywhere.
The slosh of the tankards the next table over and the clanging of the tray as the barmaids bring the old ones in and the fresh ones out, the ringing and roaring of the boots as the rowdy customers only get rowdier, and above it all, the lingering persistent stench of ale.
It doesn’t even have much to do with the tankard in front of him. The tavern owner’s daughter, a sweet young thing who spends most of her time in the kitchen and upstairs and not down on the bar floor, has made apple cider today for the festival. Arthur had gladly accepted a tankard of that instead and paid her personally for it, smiling at the sparkles in her eyes and the way she’d eagerly said he could have as much as he wanted.
Gwaine had slapped him on the shoulder and called him a charmer.
But that had been when they’d first arrived, when the night was still young enough to be called the evening and Gwaine was at his shoulder. Now he has no idea where Gwaine is, although the smart coin is on the middle of whatever raucous celebration is happening in the corner over there.
His hands itch and he flattens one to the tankard and the other to the table, trying to stop the ache. His hand sticks immediately to the table and he grimaces, peeling it off and wiping it on his tunic. His hand slides off the tankard, clammy with sweat. Why is he sweating? It’s not that warm in here and fall is in full swing. There’s a draft coming in from the door, shouldn’t he be cold, if anything?
The draft reaches its fingers down the back of his collar and he sits up more, doing his best to fight it off. There’s something sickly sweet coming from a few tables over. It looks like someone’s had too much ale and promptly brought up their stomach. He takes a sip of the cider to try and distract himself and the flavor rips across his tongue.
It’s good, but it’s almost too good. Too rich. There’s too much spice in it.
Another clang as tankards crash together and he ducks, trying to hide his head. A flash of metal in the candlelight and his head jerks up, muscles tense, but there’s nothing.
He looks back down at the table.
“Arthur,” a voice says, distant and bubbling, “Arthur, look at me.”
Arthur looks up, amidst the din and chaos of the tavern, and sees Gwaine. When did he get here?
“Arthur,” he says again, and he sounds urgent, is something wrong? “Arthur, let go of the tankard, you’ll bust it open.”
He looks down. Oh. He’s gripping the metal so tight his knuckles are turning white. He tries to let go. His hand won’t respond.
“I can’t,” he tries to say, “I can’t let go.”
His mouth doesn’t respond.
“Right,” he hears Gwaine mutter, “let’s get you home.”
Strong hands, hands stronger than he’d ever admit, pry the tankard from his fingers and leave a set of coins that thud against the inside of his head. An arm loops around his shoulders and ushers him toward the door, dodging the spray of ale and the smell it carries.
A wave of cold and they’re outside, walking up the path. It still smells like ale. Gwaine is at his shoulder. Does Gwaine smell like ale? He doesn’t know anymore, everything smells like ale.
“Sorry,” Gwaine says, bubbling distantly again, “didn’t realize. I wouldn’t have left you on your own for so long.”
“How much it was.”
“Shouldn’t be,” he manages through a cotton tongue, “shouldn’t be too much. ‘M a prince, should be fine.”
Gwaine is quiet for a moment. When he thinks he’s forgotten, he says: “it’s because you’re a prince that it’s too much.”
“What does that mean?” He would sound much more intimidating and powerful if he weren’t leaning on Gwaine to get him back to the castle.
“It means that even when there’s one of those incredibly lavish feasts or tournaments or whatever, you’re always in a bubble. Not just anyone can come up to you, you’re…you’re in a world of your own.”
He doesn’t want to be. He wants to serve the people, that makes him just as much their servant as they are his.
“And it’s great that you think that,” Gwaine says, kinder than he normally sounds for Arthur, “but that doesn’t mean you don’t need moments to adjust to it.”
Gwaine nods. “Come on. Let’s get the rest of the ale off you, you might be able to rest a bit more.”
Gwaine doesn’t smell like ale.
There’s a speck on the corner of Uther’s throne. He should tell someone to clean it off.
“Let me make myself perfectly clear.”
It’s the servant’s job to notice things like this, not his. But if he’s noticed it, maybe that means they aren’t doing their jobs.
“If you interrupt me while I’m speaking again, I will have you flogged.”
No, that’s not fair, the servants have so much to do. And normally, no one can see this part of the throne because Uther is sitting in it.
“If you insist on defying me again, I will have you thrown in the dungeons.”
Maybe he can just scrub the speck away with his tunic. Won’t take more than a moment if he can get away. Then the servants won’t have to worry about it.
“Is that understood?”
“Y-yes, my lord, perfectly.”
“Good.” Uther turns to him, a thunderstorm barely contained in a mass of creaking leather. “Arthur, anything to add?”
He swallows through a dry throat and shakes his head. “No, Father, nothing.”
Uther nods and turns back to a cowed and quiet council, continuing to read off the decisions he’s made that he expects them to agree to. There’s something wrong with the buckle on his right glove. It’s not straight. It needs to be polished, too, some of the metal has started to corrode right where the leather strap goes. Every time he moves his hand, the stain is exposed. That should be polished too. Maybe he can—
“Sire,” a low and much friendlier voice murmurs, “would you mind terribly explaining this set of maps to me?”
Arthur turns, seeing Lancelot a few paces back, holding a set in his hands. He motions to a quieter spot in the room, away from the main meeting. Arthur glances at Uther, then at Lancelot. He stretches his neck out to see what Lancelot’s holding. He frowns. It’s just a set of hunting maps.
He glances at Uther and moves back, squinting at them again. “They’re of the regular hunting grounds, what do you need explained?”
“There have been reports of bandits raiding in these areas, claiming they’re out of food.” Lancelot offers the maps again. “Some of the patrol men think it would be worth investigating here.”
Arthur opens his mouth to respond when he sees Uther turn and look for him. He freezes, drawing himself up taller and folding his hands behind his back.
Uther turns and looks at him. “What are you doing?”
“My apologies, sire,” Lancelot says, swooping in front of Arthur and bowing low, “I finally procured the maps the prince requested for tracking this group of bandits and I asked him to ensure they were the correct ones. My sincere apologies for the interruption.”
Uther looks at the maps, nods, and waves his hand.
Lancelot turns, still between Arthur and the King, and holds them out again. “You were saying, sire?”
“…we should start looking here,” Arthur says, pointing to a ravine, “that’s the most defendable spot.”
“Very good, sire.”
“Thank you,” he whispers, hidden behind the folds of Lancelot’s cloak.
“Of course,” Lancelot whispers back, “any time.”
He binds the feet first, tearing off the strips of cloth and tying them carefully around the ankles. Then the knees, to ensure it will be easier to maneuver once he’s done. Then the wrists, tied to the sides of the hips to keep the cloth in place and the weight even when it’s picked up. The elbows, then, across the chest, and finally around the head.
He steps back, prepared to pick up the wood laid next to him, when he just looks at it again.
It’s so small. Barely longer than two saddles laid end to end. It’s so small there, on the forest floor, white sheet with little flecks of dirt on one side. He takes the end of one of the last strips of fabric and knots it around the head one more time, just to make sure the cloth will stay in place.
Whether it is to offer dignity or spare himself, he doesn’t know.
Another quiet thud and he looks over. Leon stands up, having collected the last of the pyre, and gestures to Arthur’s pile of wood.
“I’ll take that, if you please?”
Arthur just nods, looking back down at the white figure as Leon hefts the wood. He can hear it being placed, can hear the quiet grunts as Leon makes sure everything is secure. When all is quiet again, he hears footsteps and the cleaning of a throat.
“Ready for you, sire.”
Right. Now is not the time to lose his nerve. He takes a deep breath and leans down, scooping the figure into his arms and turning. It’s so small. It’s too small.
He lays it down atop the pyre and steps back. Leon wordlessly holds out the flint and steel and he takes it, stepping forward and setting it alight.
Together, they watch as the body goes up in flames.
Leon speaks first. “It wasn’t your fault, Arthur.”
He swallows around the lump in his throat. “It was. I should’ve been more careful.”
“You were fighting for your own life,” Leon corrects gently, “there was only so much you could’ve done.”
“I’m Crown Prince of Camelot,” Arthur spits as the fire crackles, “I should be able to do more.”
A pause, then a firm hand on his shoulder. “Even you can’t stop death, Arthur, no man can.”
Unbidden a snarl rises and he whips around, almost shoving Leon away. “Then why is it that I can order it without anyone to stop me?”
He glares at the fire, daring the smoke to sting his eyes. It does and does so with glee.
“How can I sentence men to die, make them die for me,” he shouts, “if I can’t command them to live as well? Why is it that I can make people die but I can’t make them stop?”
His voice cracks on the word ‘stop.’ Something in his chest cracks too.
“Why can’t it stop,” he hears himself saying, “why won’t it stop, why won’t it stop?”
“Come,” he hears quietly amidst his babbling, “shed your tears, sire, it’s alright.”
He buries himself in Leon’s arms as the fire smolders, small, small, so small.
He wakes up screaming.
“Arthur!” Merlin’s hands cover his shoulders, run across his frigid skin. “Arthur, Arthur, it’s me, it’s Merlin, you’re alright, you’re safe.”
His throat aches. His eyes burn in the darkness. He’s crying. He’s crying.
“Arthur, hey, hey, Arthur,” Merlin keeps calling, trying to coax him to look at him, “hey, it’s alright. It’s just me, just clumsy old Merlin. You’re not scared of me, right?”
Merlin? No, no, he could never be scared of Merlin. Merlin is safe, Merlin is always safe. Merlin is there when he needs him to be. He can be safe with Merlin.
“That’s right,” Merlin says softly, “you’re safe. You’re with me and you’re safe. We’re in your chambers, in the castle, right here.”
He blinks. His heart is beating like he’s been running for a year. Merlin lifts a goblet to his lips and he drinks. Water.
“Can you see the moon? It’s really bright tonight.” Merlin coaxes his head to the side, out the window. “See?”
It is very bright. His room is silver. There are breezes that flutter the curtains as the candles burn. He’s still crying.
“I like looking at the moon,” Merlin says, still talking in that soft and even voice, “because it’s always the same moon. I can look at it here and know that my mother is looking at it too, back in Ealdor.”
Merlin sets the goblet back on the table and crawls onto the bed next to Arthur, offering him a shoulder to lean against as Arthur stares out the window. Merlin is warm and solid against his back.
“I think I used to tell my mother I looked for faces on the moon. I’d see something that looked like a smile, or an eye, or a nose, and I’d describe it for her. And then she’d describe what she saw for me.”
The moon glows in the night sky, silver and still. He takes a deep breath in, and a deep breath out.
“One time she told me that we would never see exactly the same face because no two faces were exactly the same.” Merlin shifts behind him. Arthur reaches out blindly and feels Merlin take his hand. He squeezes. “But that’s alright, because we’d still be looking at the same place.”
A pause. Then Merlin leans closer.
“Can you see a face?”
Arthur squints. “Er…up near that big spot. That looks like a mouth.”
“Mm. Yes, I see it. With the two little spots as eyes?”
“That’s a good one. It’s smiling at you.”
Arthur smiles back.
Uther’s not even the king anymore, Arthur thinks as he dodges another rock, why can’t these sorcerers at least attack me because of something I’ve done?
The sorcerer in question, however, seems to not be interested in the fact that Uther is dead—which, alright, fair enough—and hurls another boulder at them, despite Arthur refusing to fight back when he realized what’s going on.
“You royals think you’re so brave,” the sorcerer sneers, “cowering behind the bodies of men you throw at your problems so you don’t have to risk anything yourselves.”
I’m not my father, Arthur thinks as he sees his men still running to catch up with him.
“Do you know what it feels like to be scared?” The sorcerer steps closer. “To fear for every second of your life? As if it could be your last?”
“I do,” Arthur calls, trying to inject as much sincerity into his voice as he can, “perhaps not in the same way you do, but yes, I know what that’s like.”
The sorcerer scoffs. “I don’t think you do. Which is why I’m going to make you understand!”
Don’t like the sound of that.
Arthur opens his mouth to try and plead one last time when a bolt of energy hits him square in the chest.
He can hear the sounds of his men yelling out for him but the blood rushes in his ears and he can’t make out anything else. Panic grips his chest and squeezes his heart until it’s about to burst. He doubles over, shoving himself against the rocks and scrambling back.
This is fear, a voice whispers inside his head, this is true fear. What will you do now, little prince, when you have to be afraid and only afraid? Who will protect a frightened and panicked King who can do nothing for himself?
Memories of kind hands and careful words and clever stories.
Memories of protective holds and promised favors and practiced comfort.
Memories of his knights, his brothers, his family.
Memories of his Merlin, his chosen, his safety.
My people will help me, he thinks amidst the panic, my people will help me as they trust I will help them.
merlin and/or mcu for the blorbification list <3
Hi nemy !!! I'm gonna do Merlin and then later I'll probably post a whole separate one for MCU (god that'll be a long post)
Blorbo: oh Merlin my Merlin :) from boy to man shouldering the responsibility of all of Albion without so much as a thank you I kiss him goodnight in my head. Everyone who's anyone loves at least a little bit (even if they hate him) it's just how it works!! A god amongst men living like a servant. Insane. Magical entities speak directly to his brain and he just has to pretend to be Some Guy visiting nobles feel like their world has turned upside down when they see him tell a joke that makes the king guffaw. The other servants swoon when they see him. He looks out of his window in the dark of night looking to the stars like they'll answer "why" or "how" or even "what for". I could talk about him until it kills me
Scrunkly: Gwen!! She's everything to me ooohh my god. She's so lovely and also will stab you. She's awkward as hell and is constantly putting her foot in her mouth but it's so endearing. She steals the hearts of so many! The king of Camelot could be out for blood she'd be like "Arthur" and he'd be like "yes darling :)" like she has him and everybody else absolutely whipped. Do not let her and Merlin gang up on you they'd be unstoppable 😩 she's the queen of Camelot and she's perfect in the sense that she's not
Scrimblo bimblo: elyan without a doubt. No one wears a hoodie like him 🥰 he's small he's ace and he's here to fuck shit up. his sister is the queen loser watch your kneecaps cos if he catches u talking shit it's over. Percival carries him around sometimes :) he verbally destroys the knights (specifically gwaine) at any point in time just for kicks! He's also very soft and kind (don't get me started on the ghost of the druid boy I'll cry) anyway wdym he's dead he's right here putting the racist who challenged him in a duel to shame
Glup shitto: GWAINE the absolute madlad!! He probably doesn't count as obscure but he should've been in the show more!! Every time he's on screen I'm like "THERE HE IS!! THE BOY! what atrocities will he commit :)" from the first time we met him we were as enamored with him as Merlin was. Mans was in the middle of a bar fight and stopped to flirt with the Twink with the cheekbones and honestly that's on code. He's noble and hates it but he'd go riding into hell for the prattiest one of all because Merlin is the love of his life and he'd want him to. Merlin his first friend who'd never tire of him never ask him to change loves him just the way he is. Merlin braids his hair Merlin berates him while tending to his wounds Merlin is everything to him. But he also found friends in circles he doubted he ever would before coming to Camelot. Him shooting the shit with knights who woulda thought. He calls the crown prince Princess and I love him I love him
Poor little meow meow: somehow Arthur goes right here. Idk why but he gets a lot of hate but I love him he doesn't deserve it 🥺 he treats Merlin like shit even after he's had character development that should've CHANGED THAT so I DO metaphorically pinch his arm on occasion. Maybe if we had a spritz bottle for when he's being nasty :) anyways he's pathetic he always listens to his father but it's never enough he fell in love with two servants who are too good for him and his self worth is based entirely on other people. He's a bisexual dumbass who's closest knights are all really hot guys. hm. He's done a lot of bad things but he's also so so good the future if his kingdom rests with him and in his eyes it's his burden alone to bear and I think a blanket and some hot chocolate would do him good!!
Horse plinko: Leon my beloved <3 aptly named the long suffering because the pain never stops!! From "poetry lessons" to straight up not being able to die this man has had it rough and I'm only gonna make it worse. I love him but I love him more while he's contemplating yeeting himself onto a sword. the knights (AND THE KING) fall asleep during his speeches. He's the actual mom of the group and don't let Lancelot fool you into thinking he's some how more nature than the rest of these assholes (to be fair Leon has his moments of mischief as well 😌)
I hate him your honor.
Tysm for the ask nemy!!!!
Modern Reincarnation AU. Merlin and Lancelot go through a photo album. ~1700 words. Lancelot/Merlin. No warnings apply. (Mention of car wreck that killed Lancelot in a past life.)
A late birthday gift for Mod @little-ligi, because I couldn't have made this fest work without her. You're the best Ligi 💗
There’s no need to print photographs anymore. It’s easy enough to look at a screen and and flip through thousands, hundreds of thousands of images. But there has always been something special about choosing individual moments, perfect snapshots, and cataloging them into a book whose pages he can flip through. Merlin has been alive for over 1500 years. Books are one of the most familiar things he knows. One of the only things that hasn’t changed much in 1500 years.
People changed, clothes changed, transport changed, but not books. Those had remained nearly the same. You open the front cover and you look at what’s inside, just like always.
After 1500 years of adaptations, it was nice for this one thing to remain the same.
So when Lancelot hands him the photo album, Merlin is about to break his own face in half with how much he smiles at it. It’s a good thing, no a great thing, that Lancelot has done. The photo album is a deep forest green, the cover embossed with “The Book of Us.” In silver letters that Merlin traces with his fingers.
“What’s the occasion?” He asked, almost unable to take his eyes off of the book.
“Today is the day we met in this life, 10 years ago. I thought it might be nice.” Lancelot’s voice is so sincere, that Merlin has to look at him, has to look at the face of the man that he has loved without end or conditions for 1500 years. Tears prick his eyes because of all the love he see’s in Lancelot’s.
“I love you.” Merlin’s voice is soft when he finally finds it, and Lancelot crushes him to his broad chest, giving him a stability Merlin didn’t even know he needed until he had it.
“And I you,” Lancelot kissed Merlin’s cheek and Merlin’s fingers itched to open the photo album, but he didn’t want to leave the circle of Lancelot’s arms. He’s content to just listen to soft sound of Lancelot’s breaths, feel the pounding of his heart against his chest.
It’s Lancelot who finally breaks the silence. “Would you like to see the photos, my love?” His voice is soft and nonjudgemental. It’s obvious to Merlin that either a yes or a no would be acceptable.
“Yeah,” Merlin finally says, composing himself to pull away and walk with Lancelot to the couch.
They sit and Lancelot waits patiently for Merlin to feel ready to open the book.
The first few pages cover the span of over a year, with so few pictures taken before Lancelot knew him, before he remembered. Several of them are pulled from Instagram, captions included. There’s one of an empty seat and a drained coffee cup, and the caption just reads “I think I’ve met the man of my dreams.” It’s from their first coffee date, Lancelot’s post-date instagram update. Merlin laughed aloud, almost having forgotten it. The next is a candid shot of Merlin. They’d taken a weekend holiday a few months into dating and gone for a hike. The sun was setting behind Merlin, blurring out his features, but the silhouette was so obviously him.
The next was one of Lancelot cooking breakfast, looking over his shoulder to smile curiously at the camera.
Then the first selfie they’d ever taken together, complete with Lancelot pressing a kiss to Merlin’s cheek.
The photographs become more numerous, after that. Some of them and all their friends. There’s the photoset from Morgana’s birthday party (She’d rented a photo booth “because why they hell shouldn’t I spend Uther’s money on bullshit?”) There’s the Christmas photos for the dinner they always throw at Merlin’s because Lancelot doesn’t have any living family to go home to. Arthur and Morgana pop by when Uther becomes insufferable. Gwen and Elyan bring their father by to say hi. Leon stops by with gifts on his way to Mithian’s parent’s house. All these silly little moments caught on camera and made eternal, printed and carefully organized.
There’s the set they took at their third anniversary, a gift from Gwen and Arthur (who had recently gotten their heads out of unsavory places and started dating). There’s the picture of he and Gwaine standing side be side, smiling like old friends despite having just met twenty minutes ago. Merlin has a bruise forming on his cheek, but he’d insisted Lancelot take picture, to commemorate. “It’s not everyday I get in a bar fight, my love. Humor me.” And Lancelot always did.
There’s the terrible sledding disaster of 2015, where Merlin had crashed straight into a tree, and had been having too much fun to stop it with his magic. This is a still from a video, shortly before the actual disaster occurred. By the time the disaster was eminent Lancelot was no longer filming.
There’s the pictures he and Lancelot used to sneak of each other, just to have. Lancelot watching tellie. Merlin having a nap on the couch. Lancelot unclogging the sink. Merlin folding laundry. There was no rhyme or reason, then, for why they took the photos. It was a fun phase, each feeling challenged to take the most mundane pictures, always followed by a faked whining or griping.
There’s the picture of them from two years ago, in tailored suits, surrounded by friends, making their vows, followed by a series of all their friends dancing. A professional photographer had taken these photos, but Merlin always preferred the less polished pictures he and Lancelot took themselves that day.
Like the one Merlin had taken of Lancelot after he’d shoved cake in his face. Or Gwen’s candid picture of them gazing at each other like the biggest idiots in love.
Merlin doesn’t know when he started to cry, but he feels a tear roll down his face only when Lancelot pushes it away.
“I hope these are happy.” Lancelot puts his arm around him and Merlin nuzzles his shoulder. It’s enough, right now, to feel his warmth and smell his soap and just be near him. It’s grounding in a way only Lancelot ever was. The years with Lancelot, and there always seemed to be so many fewer of those than years without him, always made him feel the most alive. The most loved. The memories of Lancelot were good, but they didn’t sustain him, not like this would.
“Come here.” Merlins said, wiping his face and standing suddenly. He takes Lancelot’s hand and leads him out to the car.
“Where are we going?” He asked as they buckled the seat belts, but Merlin just shook his head.
“I want to show you something.”
The self storage place they pull up to is one of the last things Lancelot expects.
“Come on.” Merlin gets out and Lancelot dutifully follows, just like always. He lets Merlin take his hand again and watches as he pulls out a key ring that Lancelot’s never seen before and flips through them.
‘I put everything away, every time I meet one of you.” Merlin explains. “I used to have to keep the houses, to keep the things, but these are more secure.” He finally finds the key he needs as they stop outside a storage unit. “This one is from when we lived in the 1960s. Found you in Wales, then, of all places.” He smiled wanly. “We had 10 years together before you died in 1968. Car wreck.”
Lancelot only ever remembers bits of pieces of his past lives, normally only the good bits. “You weren’t with me, I presume?”
Merlin laughed as he wrenched the storage room door open. “You wouldn’t let me.”
“Is that why you never let me ride in a car without you now?”
“Part of it. I also just don’t like to be away from you.” Merlin flicked a light on and Lancelot was surprised by the sheer volume of things that existed in the room. “This was all of your things. I usually give myself about a year to wallow before I pack it away. If it’s here I never have to forget it, but I can still come and see it, if I need to.” He drags Lancelot to the back. On a wire rack there are plastic containers that looks like they’ve been taped shut. Merlin mutters a quick spell to remove the taping and then digs through the box. There are books, folders, papers, but then Merlin pulls out a photo album.
“I want you to see this. Because… I don’t know. It feels important.” Merlin is a very very old man, but he still doesn’t always have all the answers. Sometimes he just has to trust his gut and hope for the best.
He takes the album gently. It doesn’t smell stale the way old books usually do, most likely due to Merlin’s magic, but he flips it open anyway, without question. The first picture is of him and Merlin, a different him, but the same Merlin, Merlin’s arm is slung over him and they’re posing much more like a happy couple than a pair of friends. “Who took this?” He asked, tracing the lines of Merlin’s face. He looks so much older here than the Merlin he knows.
“Elyan. He liked photography. Took well to most of the Arts that life, actually.” Merlin smile and flipped a few pages to show Lancelot a picture of Elyan with a painting. “Abstraction was sort of the thing, then. He does a good job of it.”
“I don’t know anything about art, but it’s very compelling.” Even in the dreamy old photo, which was saying quite a lot.
“I brought it, a few years after he died. It’s in one of the other units.”
“How many of these do you have?” Lancelot asked, turning the page and almost laughing aloud at the image of Gwaine holding Arthur in a headlock. The two of them never changed, apparently.
“Just a couple. There are quite a lot of units in each building.”
“You own this building?”
“I’ve been alive for 1500 years, my love.” Merlin kisses his cheek and Lancelot closes the album. “I have a lot of stuff.”
“We’re taking this with us.”
“That was always the intent.” Merlin closes the box and spells the tape back into place. “That was a gift from you, too, actually, birthday present.”
Merlin laughed and wrapped an arm around Lancelot, tilting his head up to kiss his forehead. “You’re sentimental, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He pulled Merlin’s head back down to kiss hims squarely on the lips, making Merlin finally pause for the first time since they’d gotten in the car. “Neither would I.”
@flyingpurplepeopleeater42 this one’s for you <3 Also thanks to both you and @fluffypotatey for hyping up my previous posts so that I got the confidence to continue my endless ramble.
I’m your problem now :)
In the Merlin discord I’m a part of, it was brought to my attention that Gwaine and the Green Knight would make for a great episode because if done right it could confirm Gwaine as Queer, and that is 100% correct my friend and here’s my take on that:
I don’t want to follow the real story too closely because it gives me ‘Morgana is horrible at being a villain’ and ‘moral of the story is don’t be a fucking coward’ kind of fairy tail vibes so let’s ✨spice it up a bit✨(and make it gay)
I imagine the episode starting with a hooded figure walking through the citadel of Camelot, towards the castle, while ominous music plays, because if there was one good thing about BBCM, it was the soundtrack. Maybe a servant passes the figure and kind of looks back at them like “what the fresh hell was that” then continues on her merry way because strange people are above her pay grade and honestly she’s having a hard time keeping herself from going full-on alcoholic as it is. She doesn’t need anymore weird shit in her life. Anyway cut to the banquet hall that we’ve seen a few times, Arthur at the head of the table, Merlin and Gwen gossiping behind him, The knights in their respective seats talking amongst themselves, haughty nobles entertaining each other, (if you get my meaning) basically everyone’s having a pretty good time. This will parallel the banquet scene that the original myth starts with, when a green man rides in and tells them all to cut his head off
The banquet ends pretty late in the night, everyone’s full with the cooks horrible delicious food, and Gwaine and Elyan are walking back to their chambers together. From the way the camera is moving we can tell we’re seeing everything from some hidden person’s POV, as they kind of stalk Gwaine and Elyan. Because I refuse to let a single second of this spinoff not be dedicated to the knights characterization, we can just barely hear Gwaine and Elyan’s conversation and it goes a little something like this:
Gwaine: (about Percival) Has he given you any stupid nicknames yet? He calls me ‘little man’.
(reference to that one (1) time Percy called him that)
Elyan: He calls me Sir Short Legs :(
And then Creepy Hooded Figure of the Week rushes up and grabs Gwaine’s wrist and Gwaine spins around kinda panicky like ‘wtf who just touched me’ and surprise!! he knows the person!! We see in the corner of the screen that the figure is taking off his hood. Maybe Gwaine’s eyes widen in surprise and he tries to back away. Next to him, Elyan looks like he’s just shit himself. But then Gwaine squints, looking closer at the person we have yet to see, like they’re familiar, somehow. “Bertilak? Is that you?”
Cut to Bertilak’s face, which is super ugly, mind you. His skin is green and his eyes are bright red and in all honesty he looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings. He tells Gwaine he needs his help. And cut to the new opening titles (which I may or may not be thinking of editing into existence) for ~dramatic effect~
When the opening titles are over we see Elyan closing the door to Gwaine’s chamber behind him as Gwaine leads Bertilak over to the bed. Elyan stops Gwaine for a moment.
Elyan: Remind me again what the hell that is and how you know it?
Gwaine: That’s Bertilak. He doesn’t usually look like that. We had a thing a while back.
Bertilak: *nods solemnly*
Elyan, definitely not jealous in any way shape or form: Define ‘thing’
Anyway as it turns out, Bertilak was a childhood friend of Gwaines. Noble, like he was, but he didn’t act it, so it was easy to forget. Bertilak’s family was close with Gwaine’s dad, and kept visiting his mom after his dad died out of awkward pity, and thats how they met. Gwaine, Bertilak, and Yvain would get into countless messes together as kids. I’m obsessed with Gwaine and Yvain now can you tell? Eventually Bertilak settled down while Gwaine and Yvain wanted to travel Albion, so they split up. But not before that ‘thing’ Gwaine mentions. (Gwaine falls in love will all of his friends at some point and I love him for it)
Surprise surprise, Bertilak’s cursed. They have to help him lift the curse or whatever, but for some reason they need Lancelot’s help, maybe they need a map idk I just really wanna include Lance in one of these, shut up. Anyway our boy Lance saves the day, they go on this journey or whatever, and its super fun for about 2 seconds. (Either Elyan tags along or he stays behind to let Arthur know what Gwaine’s up too. “I believe he is currently fucking an old friend, sire. Did I say fucking? I meant... um... helping. He’s helping an old friend.”)
Somewhere along the way Gwaine meets Bertilak’s wife and just goes full gwaine mode:
Gwaine, bending down to kiss her hand: And who might you be? ;)
Bertilak: That’s my wife.
Somehow, someway, Gwaine finds a little green belt and some old crone or whatever tells him ‘this belt will make you invincible :)’ (she's lying its just a placebo but he doesn't know that. This parallels the ‘magic’ green belt Gwaine gets in the legend) Gwaine thinks he should wear the belt for good luck, but Bertilak, ever the responsible one since his childhood with himbo 1 and 2, glares at him and Gwaine gently puts it down like, “Then again maybe not.”
They save the day at the end, undo the curse, Bertilak doesn’t look like a fucking gremlin anymore, and Queer Gwaine is confirmed. Everyone wins :)
Ranking Rating the Merlin ships
I’m bored and procrastinating doing more productive things plus I was already doing this in my head so I guess I’ll share and you can all tell me how wrong I am or whatever,,, jk please don't. Also to note these may not be all ships, they’re just ones I have seen on past perusals of ao3 or on here basically.
7/10 - this is like the main ship of the fandom and I get it, y’know they almost died for each other several times and so on but like, canonically, it really is not the best ship. Like, we’ve got to admit these two did not have the healthiest relationship - Merlin was basically obsessed with saving Arthur because of the prophecy and did so at the expense of helping magic eventually and then Arthur was just kind of a dick sometimes because he’s emotionally repressed and all that. But I mean it does still have a lot going for it, mainly the mass of great fics that make it all a bit more even and healthier, so it gets a 7.
7/10 - even though this is one of the only canon ships, I feel it’s a bit underappreciated in a way because of the merthur love out there. Anyway, arwen is an equally good ship and Arthur and Gwen were just really cute together; when I was watching s5 most of the scenes they were in (Edit: I’ve just remembered I specifically mean the scene when they’re de-mind-controlling Gwen at that lake cauldron thing or whatever, they were very cute there), I was just like they’re a really good couple, they work. I mean there are certainly downfalls which is largely the writing and treatment of Gwen in those later seasons but overall they really were a good couple who deserve better.
9999999999/10 - PERFECTION. Like, Lancelot knew about Merlin’s magic and still cared about him greatly and this was the one relationship in which Merlin could be entirely honest and himself and Lancelot was just so so good about it. And also when Lancelot said “I look at you and wonder about myself, would I ever knowingly give my life for something.” and Merlin said “You have to have a reason. Something you care about. Something that’s more important than anything.” and then Lancelot sacrificed himself being the only one who knew Merlin was going to thus giving his life for Merlin. Just these were two amazing dudes who deserved better and by better I mean each other because they were in love your honour.
10/10 - I mean come on first of all “help a friend” “Arthur’s lucky to have us” “not Arthur” like, Merlin understand that this beautiful chaotic man loves you. Like it is undeniable that Gwaine is brought into this all because of the fact he cares about Merlin, like that’s what brings him into all this. In fact it’s so undeniable that even when I’m reading merthur fics there’s a magic reveal and Arthur’s all like “begone foul demon” waving his sword about all threatening like whilst Gwaine is there like “wow I don’t give a shit because it’s Merlin and I love him end of discussion”. And sometimes it’s even like Arthur attacks Merlin and Gwaine stops him which like,,,,,, it is very clear that we can all see Gwaine is a fucking perfect man for Merlin and someone just needs to tell the dipstick warlock this so they can date.
5/10 - tbh this could probably be higher but my awareness of Percival and Elyan is shamefully minimal. Like I’ve seen the show, they were there but I can’t say I remember that much. Still, from what I do recall, they seem to have a good friendship going on so y’know if they ended up in a relationship I wouldn’t be opposed. Could be nice.
6/10 - basically same as above but Gwaine’s here too now so I have to give an extra point.
6/10 - I mean the scene in Diamond of the Day where Morgana’s torturing Gwaine and he screams and then Percival just fucking hulks out from where he’s tied up and breaks free to get to Gwaine like,,,,, get you a man who can do that.
0/10 - Morgana is a lesbian. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
-2/10 - I just simply do not vibe with this ship in the slightest. I mean firstly there’s the matter of Merlin just hating Mordred (wrongfully so imo but still). And then just, Merlin was like basically adult and Mordred was small child the first time they met so like I just can’t say I vibe with it. Mordred is the child of the group and he shouldn’t be dating anyone, that’s it basically.
6/10 - I can almost guarantee they’d score higher if someone had been allowed to live longer but alas the writer’s ain’t shit. They are the peak of deserved better though.
9/10 - ah recall the earlier seasons when these two where just in love and everything was incredible. “Something to cheer you up, I know you’re not sleeping well” “You cheer me up.” That’s love bitch. Anyway these two could have had it all as shown by every early season interaction the had but no once again the writers had to fuck it up. So anyway thanks to them a point has had to be deducted off of perfection because it isn’t cool to torture and brainwash Gwen in the dark tower Morgana (also because of that stupid queen jealousy shit where Morgana was like Gwen can’t be on the throne like can it girl we know you you used to want to share that throne with her).
5/10 - I think what they had was sweet but I also think that, at the end of the day, they both at other people out there who they work better with than with each other. Still, I love them both and if they wanted to be happy together then I’m rooting for them.
3/10 - but only if we’re talking romantically. Platonically their friendship is like ∞/10. They deserved more screen-time together in later seasons but regardless earlier seasons tell us that their friendship is unmatched and I can live with that.
Merlin x Gwen x Arthur
8/10 - I don’t know the actual ship name for this but I know I’ve see it somewhere. Anyway, fuck love triangles, polyamory saves lives. (this sentiment can also go for any other love triangle or even love square on this show that you can think of)
Leon x anyone
-7/10 - yes, this isn’t a real specific ship. yes, I’m aware of that fact. But I had to say, given I’ve seen various ships with Leon, that overall no. Leon is long-suffering and tired of everyone’s bullshit. If Leon is going to date someone, it will be someone nice and sensible who he deserves and who doesn’t add to the chaos going on around him.
On that note, I’m done, you’re welcome.
Merlin was exhausted from work. Trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of customers at Christmas was exhausting. He loved to help people find the magic of books though, they were all he had left of the world he once knew. The world when Camelot and all of Avalon still existed. The world, where Arthur was still alive. There was a knock at the door and Merlin just sighed before getting up. He opened the door and saw Leon standing there with Christmas Eve dinner, just like every year.
"Happy Christmas." Leon said sadly as he leaned against the door post.
"Happy Christmas Leon. Come in." The two men walked to the kitchen table and sat down, the only light came from the street lights and a few lights that lit Merlin's small tree in the corner. "Do you ever think this will end?"
"I do not know Merlin. Maybe one day, somehow we will see Avalon rise again, we will see Arthur and Gwen and all of our friends once more gathered at the round table. Or we will be here for another 1500 years wishing and hoping that we can find a way to end this stupid immortality thing and finally just die of old age."
Merlin just nodded and dug his food out of the fast food bag in front of him. The two sat in silence as they ate, the only sound was that of the cars and the late city life down below. Leon and Merlin eventually made their way to the couch and curled up together to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" as they have always done since the movie came out. Leon put a blanket over Merlin once he finally fell asleep halfway through the movie. When they woke up, the news was on about two men who had been arrested early that morning. Leon nudged Merlin awake.
"Merlin, my eyes could be deceiving me, but is that Arthur and Gwaine?" Leon asked, shaking his head. The news reporter popped up on the screen.
"Good morning London. This morning, these two men were caught soaking wet and screaming for the mythical wizard Merlin. One keeps claiming he is the King of Camelot himself Arthur, while the other insisting he is Sir Gwaine of the infamous round table. If anyone can come and get them, the officers who arrested them would be grateful." The camera cut to a picture of Gwaine and Arthur sitting in a holding cell still in armour. Their swords and Arthur's cape had been taken and the armour might have been taken, but it looks like they put up a fight.
Merlin and Leon jumped up and threw on a pair of matching Christmas sweaters Leon had gotten them years ago as a joke gift. Merlin quickly grabbed his keys and ran to his car. After all these years of having one, he still did not completely understand how all the mechanics worked even though he had a drivers license. He preferred his bike, but he would need more than one seat.
When they got to the police station, Merlin and Leon walked up to the information desk and inquired about Arthur and Gwaine. Leon told the officer that the two had been drunk at a dress up Christmas party and had gotten drunk. They had wandered off and no one could find them. Leon paid the bail while Merlin waited for Arthur and Gwaine to come up. Once they were there, the men were given back their chainmail and swords before Merlin tackled Arthur.
"Where are we, and why won't these knights listen to me?" Arthur questioned, a bit annoyed.
"Arthur, I will answer all your questions later, okay? We need to get you back to my flat and out of the armour."
"You are right Merlin, it really does need polishing doesn't it?"
"Yes, now come on." Merlin dragged Arthur and Gwaine to his car where Leon was waiting for them. Merlin helped them into the car and just sat there in the passenger seat, mixed emotions swimming through his brain. When they got back to Merlin's flat, Merlin and Leon took them inside.
"Do you have any spare clothes?" Leon asked Merlin.
"Why would I want to wear Merlin's clothes?" Arthur asked plopping down on the couch.
"Because you need to fit in." Merlin told him going to his closet in his bedroom. Gwaine followed him to the bedroom.
"What is all of this new stuff? Like what was that carriage that we were just in?" Gwaine questioned watching Merlin throwing clothes into his bed.
"I will attempt to explain everything to you and Arthur. Please go back to the living room with them." Merlin shooed Gwaine out of the room. Once Gwaine was out, Merlin shut the door before running over to his pillow and screaming into the soft fabric. Afterwards he sat up, and grabbed a shirt and a pair of sweatpants someone had given him, that were big on himself. He came out and told Arthur to change into them in the bathroom while he found something to wear for Gwaine. The issue was Gwaine was taller than he was, so he wanted to find something that would be long enough to cover his legs.
"MERLIN COME HELP ME PLEASE!" Arthur yelled from the bathroom. Merlin just laughed as Arthur tried to get his head through the turtle neck shirt he had given to Arthur. "Don't just stand there, help me." Merlin just shook his head and went over to help Arthur with the shirt.
"Arthur what do you remember?" Merlin asked, pulling the neck of the shirt over Arthur's head.
"I was stabbed by Mordred. You have magic. I died with you holding me in your arms. What happened after Camelot lost their King Merlin? How did Guivere fair? Did she remarry? Was their an heir to the throne? Who all survived? Did my knights make it home? I mean Gwain was with me when we came from the lake, so I suppose he died."
"Arthur calm down one question at a time okay? You will overload yourself. Camelot mourned for you Arthur. The people, they loved you. Every year on the eve of when you died there was a vigil. Guivere was out of it for a while, royal advisors kinda took over making decisions. Once she came around, she was a wonderful queen. She did you proud, Arthur." Merlin took a step back and smiled.
"What about the rest of my questions?"
"Those should be answered by the man in the living room with Gwaine."
"Wait there was someone else here?" Arthur questioned heading for the door.
"Yes, I wasn't driving the car with magic. Right you don't know what a car is or how it works. Right."
Leon and Gwaine sat at the table laughing. Gwaine had found the basket of apples Merlin kept in the kitchen to snack on when he was writing. His laptop sat on a small table with a bunch of sticky notes around it on the wall.
"By the way Merlin, when I saved your busts at the tavern, that was an act of heroism, I mean who else would take on those bullies." Gwaine said smiling. He took the Apple core and tossed it into the trash can.
"Good morning Arthur." Leon said, smiling. Arthur gasped and ran over to Leon. "I've missed you. Merlin has been teaching me poetry you know."
"How dare he teach you poetry, that's my thing." Arthur gave a small laugh. "Merlin said I should ask you about what happened to Gwen after I died. Does Merlin not know?"
"He does, but it was a rocky time for him. About three years after your death, I...Gwen and I got married and I became the new King of Camelot. We had two sons. The oldest we named Arthur in honor of Camelot's once and future king. The younger of the two we had several years later, we named him Elyan after Gwen's brother. They grew up to be strong knights and princes, and long after Gwen passed away, I stepped down as King and let Arthur and his wife Elizabeth take over as King and Queen. They ruled Camelot with honor and dignity until they died and then their son Emeyrus took over as King. So the line went down for another 250 years. Then one harsh winter, a famine took over Camelot and all of Avalon. All the kingdoms fell to the Saxons and Avalon was lost forever. All that's left is the pillar in the lake, Merlin and myself."
"If there is one more question I may ask? What happened after the battle?" Arthur asked tears in his eyes. Leon knee what he meant by everyone.
"Only myself and Percival survived." Arthur just nodded. "I'm not sure if Gwaine remembers but he was tortured to death by Morgana."
"So, Merlin got mad at you for taking Gwen's hand in marriage?"
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS LEON! ARTHUR WAS OUR FRIEND!"
"Merlin calm down please..." Leon went to lay a hand on his shoulder, but Merlin pulled away, tears streaming down his eyes. He wanted to run far away, where no one knew who he was, or what had happened. "Merlin please, I know you are still upset about Arthur. We all are, but we have to move forward for the sake of Camelot."
"For the sake of Camelot." Merin echoed. "Camelot this and Camelot that, everything is done for the sake of Camelot." Merlin shook his head and ran off to the stables. He had a bag packed and a horse ready to leave. He hopped up and took off into the forest. He went to the one place he felt safe. He rode to the lake.
When Merlin arrived, he left his horse in the tree line and went down to the edge of the lake. The water was lapping against the shore harshly as a storm was blowing in from the north. Merlin did not care though. He did not want to hear the wedding bells.
"Hi Arthur, so Leon and Gwen are getting married today. I want to be happy for them, I really do, but at the same time, I want you to be home. I want you to come home like they said you would. I want to believe more than anything that you will rise from the lake. It hurts without you Arthur, as annoying as you could be dollaphead, I never realized how much I needed you." Merlin heard a snap and turned around. Percival came down to the water and sat beside Merlin. "I thought you would be a Leon and Gwen's wedding."
"I was going too, but then I saw you ride off and crying. I figured you'd be here talking to Arthur. It's what you do when you're upset."
"Thank you Perse. I guess I just hoped that Arthur would return."
"We all do." Percival told Merlin, hugging him close.
"Yeah he wouldn't talk to me for weeks, but he finally came around and accepted our marriage. I think he was just hoping you would come back and fix everything."
"Thank you Leon, for everything." Arthur told him.
"Of course Arthur, while I may have become the king, you were and still are my king and I am proud to serve by your side." There was a bright flash of light from outside the flat and people started screaming. The four ran to the window and glanced down. There she was, Morgana in the flesh standing on the ground with Aithusa by her side. Morgana glanced up at the boys and smirked. She began to chant and Merlin told everyone to get away from the windows. The window shattered, and Merlin took most of the damage as he was still right in front.
"MERLIN!" Leon ran over and checked for damage. Merlin was bleeding but he had curled up that most of the glass didn't hit anything major.
"COME OUT HERE COWARDS OR SHALL THIS NEW CITY AND KINGDOM FALL TOO!" Morgana shouted from the ground. Arthur ran over to the window, glancing down at her.
"You will never win Morgana, now go back from whatever corner of the death that you came from."
"Never, I lost my chance once, I will not lose this battle again." Morgana hopped on Aithusa and rode off into the distance. Arthur just stood there glancing at the people below who were confused and scared.
"Hey Leon...er King?" Merlin asked, trying to figure out how to address the new ruler.
"Just Leon is fine Merlin. You are an old friend and such formality is not needed."
"Okay Just Leon." Merin cracked a small smile and laughed.
"Is that a smile I see?" Queen asked, walking over to the men.
"Maybe....." Merlin replied. Leon hugged him close. "We have missed this Merlin."
"Well dollaphead I should get to work then. What will it be, polishing armour, scrubbing the floors. Have I mentioned polishing armour." Merlin gave the first true smile he had given in three years. Gwen laughed and hugged Merlin as well.
"Armour sounds good, but we have a trip to go on first." Leon told him. Leon took him down the hall and to the great hall.
"The stables are that way Leon." Merlin said, pointing in the opposite direction.
"I know they are, but this trip is within the castle walls." When they got to the room, Leon had Merlin close his eyes and led him across the room. "Now open." Merin opened his eyes to see a red curtain.
"Wow Just Leon, that's impressive." Leon scoffed and nudged Merlin.
"Let then open the curtain first." The curtains opened and there stood a bronze statue of Arthur and Merlin. They stood side by side, swords drawn. Merlin hugged Leon and sobbed into his chest. "Shhh it's okay Merlin, I knew you would want something to honor Arthur and I thought that having you two together would be even better. You two were always together no matter what."
"Thank you Leon. For everything. I'm glad you became the king." Merlin took a step back and wiped his eyes.
Arthur returned to where Leon was helping Gwaine pick glass out of Merlin's side. Arthur sat beside them and tried to help. Every time they pulled out a piece, Merlin flinched. Arthur eventually had to pull away because he started to tear up. They had only been reunited for less than a day and Merlin was already hurt trying to save him.
"Is there anything I can do? Like get some water?" Arthur asked, pacing the floor.
"Uh yeah, the cups are in the cabinet. Sink water is fine." Leon told Arthur pointing to the kitchen. Arthur went over and found a cup.
"Where did you say the pump was?" Arthur asked.
"Oh see the sink?"
"Pull that silver lever gently." Arthur nodded and put the cup under the spout and pulled the level.
"Wow it doesn't stop after a few seconds. You don't have to pump the water."
"No you don't, it's quite nice." Arthur brought the cup of water back and went back to playing with the sink. "Arthur dont run too much water, we have a high water bill as it is."
"Water bill? Like you have to pay to have this running water?" Arthur asked.
"Yes you do." Leon told him helping Merlin, who was now awake, to the table.
"I never did ask. What year is it?" Arthur questioned finding other things in the kitchen to play with.
"It's 2020." Merlin replied weakly.
"But that means...It's been 1500 years." Gwaine said sitting down.
"Yeah." Leon and Merlin replied in unison.
"Hey Leon calm down, it will be alright. Gwen is a strong woman. She will be fine." Merlin told Leon trying to calm him down. After a few hours, Leon was finally allowed inside Gwen's bedroom. She was asleep, but her lady In waiting was holding a newborn baby boy. She handed Leon his son and smiled.
"He is perfectly healthy Sire, no problems at all. And Gwen is fine, she is just tired and needs some rest." She explained to the king.
"Oh yes of course, can I?"
"Go ahead sire." Leon held his newborn son close to his chest and smiled at the small child wrapped in a wool blanket. He walked to his chambers while Merlin ran ahead and opened the door. Leon sat on his bed while Merlin stood there awkwardly.
"Merlin why don't you take the rest of the day off. You were up with me early this morning and have been there for me all day. It is the least I can do after all you've done."
"Are you sure Leon?"
"Yes I'm sure now shoo, flee, go enjoy yourself. I'll have a guard find you if I need you." Leon smiled at him and waved him out.
"Thank you Leon." Merlin smiled and walked out the door. He knew that Leon had told him to go, but he sat right outside the door and fell asleep.
"So, what kind of story are you writing?" Gwaine asked Merlin trying to get him to talk.
"A story about Camelot. The true story, not what legend has told. Oh Arthur pulled this fancy sword name Excalibur from a stone and now he's this king of this amazing kingdom. Like sorry, but he was already king when he pulled Excalibur from the sword. That was just reassurance that he was the true king of Camelot since he had lost faith."
"You are telling the truth." Arthur replied, smiling.
"I'm telling our story." Merlin told him, smiling back as he tried to sit up in his chair. "Now enough dilly saddling. Morgana is back, what are we going to do?"
Day Two: Quarantine
Writer’s Month 2020
Pairing: Merlin x Arthur
Tensions and tempers rise when Arthur and Merlin are quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic. Writer’s Month 2020 Day Two: Quarantine. Modern AU
Read on AO3
Read on Fanfiction
Arthur didn’t know how they’d gotten to this point – standing over each other, seconds away from resorting to blows, without the possibility from walking away from the confrontation. Merlin was staring up at him with angry eyes, hurt eyes, and Lord knows what Arthur looked like. They both breathed out.
The evening had been so calm. The ending credits of Supernatural played on the screen – Arthur had taken advantage of the enforced isolation after he tested positive for COVID to catch up on his favourite tv show. Dinner had been a simple but delicious spaghetti – he had taken Merlin his plate, his partner still doing his course work. After a can of bourbon cola to wash it all down, he’d suggested to Merlin that they go to bed – maybe sleep in a little, have some breakfast in bed and watch some Doctor Who. He had been hogging the tv a little over the past week and a half, so Merlin should get a chance to watch his nerdy show (that Arthur refused to admit to enjoying, if only because Merlin could get so animated and engrossed in the twisted storylines).
It had just been a suggestion.
Merlin had said no. “I can’t go to bed yet Arthur, I’ve still got work to do.”
Arthur should have let it go. But as Merlin likes to constantly remind him, a dollop head can never take no for an answer. “C’mon Merlin, nothing can be so important that it needs to be down right now.” Alright, so maybe he was feeling a little neglected. They’d been home together for days yet had barely exchanged a handful of words. He had wanted to go to sleep with Merlin wrapped in his arms, wake up with a bony elbow digging into his stomach, or back, or wherever the impossible idiot managed to catch him.
“I can’t Arthur. I need to finish this assignment.” The lack of a nickname should have clued him in. No prat. No dollop head. No pompous arse.
But Arthur had to be a complete bonehead and push on. “Surely you can’t take a break for one night Merlin. Don’t you have an extension anyway, because of COVID?”
The glare Merlin had sent him – finally looking up from his laptop – was a horrid mix of exhaustion and fury. “The extension was for my other class Arthur. This essay is for my class on differential diagnosis in the neurosciences, that they had to expand from a normal reflective analysis due to COVID. It’s due next week. So no, I’m not going to take a break.”
Some concern had broken through Arthur’s exasperation here. “You need to take a break anyway Merlin. I don’t think I’ve seen you move away from your computer since…” Since I don’t know when, he thought. He’d been so caught up in his tv show, so concerned with his own mini holiday that he hadn’t even…
“I can’t sleep!” Merlin had shot to his feet. Away from the glare of the computer screen, Arthur could see the deep circles under his eyes.
“It’s easy Merlin. You just lay down and close your eyes. Maybe try to relax if you’re not too uptight.” That was where everything went wrong, Arthur thought. This is where I screwed up.
Merlin had thrown his hands up. “Oh, you’d know all about relaxing Arthur. You haven’t done anything but since this quarantine started! If you’d actually pull your weight around here, maybe I would have the time to sleep!”
“Pull my weight?” He’d spluttered. “Who do you think cooked you dinner tonight!?” A dinner that had long since gone cold, untouched, on Merlin’s desk.
“Who do you think made dinner every other night this week?” Merlin had shot back. “Certainly not you! You’ve been attached to the tv the second you came home!”
“That’s rich, coming from someone who’s been attached to his computer for months!” Alright, so maybe this had been building for longer than just these few days.
“I. Have. Been. Studying! Trying to become a doctor! You know, that endeavour you said you’d support me in? Haven’t seen you doing much supporting!”
“Maybe I wouldn’t have supported it if I knew it would take you away from me!”
That is where they were now. Two men, standing across from each other in a cramped room, in a cramped apartment they couldn’t leave.
“Arthur…” Merlin’s voice was so quiet.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” Arthur immediately felt guilt like a rock in his stomach. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Then how did you mean it?” That fire was back in his eyes now. “C’mon, don’t hold back now.”
“Merlin, I…” How do can he put into words the way an empty bed feels, an empty couch or empty kitchen bench, the feeling of air at your side that’s meant to be filled with a person. How can he describe the loneliness of having someone there but so far away? Of having Merlin so close but never talking to him. “I miss you Merlin.”
“Arthur, you know how much this degree means to me.” He did, he really did. Arthur was the one to hold Merlin, barely eighteen, when he broke down at his mother’s bedside after she lost her battle with cancer. Arthur was the one to push Merlin into going to university when he was directionless. Arthur was at every open day. Arthur was there when Merlin chose which degree, which courses, which days. He knew.
“I know, I know, I just… you might be here, Merlin, but you’re not here.”
“This – this quarantine has been hard on both of us,” Merlin hedged as he looked away. “Maybe it’s just cabin fever.”
“Maybe,” Arthur suggested as he took a step forward, “It’s you overworking and overstressing yourself. I know you don’t want to sleep, but you have to. You’re going to collapse at this rate.”
“I can’t sleep Arthur!”
This was more than just a deadline, Arthur thought with sudden clarity. He didn’t know how long Merlin had been spiralling, but now it was obvious.
“You can’t or won’t?”
Merlin’s eyes gained a wild quality. There was a shine to them, like he was holding back tears. “It’s… I can’t…” He shivered. Took a step forward. Collapsed into Arthur’s arms. Shaking hands grabbed at Arthurs shirt even as his shoulder became damp. Despite this, Merlin didn’t make a sound.
Arthur squeezed Merlin tightly, arms wrapped around shoulder and waist. “It’s okay Merlin. It’s gonna be okay.”
“Not it’s not!” Merlin’s voice was muffled but the desperation in it wasn’t. “He’s not gonna be okay!”
“Who’s not going to be okay?” His mind whirled. Was it Gwaine? His police partner (or as Gwaine liked to call it, his work wife) had been spat on by the same COVID positive bastard and was safely quarantined with his roommate Percy. Lance was still working, trying to stay safe despite his job as a paramedic. Maybe something had happened to him? Arthur hadn’t heard anything… Maybe it was one of the others – Elyan, or Leon, or Kay, or –
Arthur closed his eyes. “Shit…” He murmured. Gaius. The closest thing Merlin had to a father, and part of the inspiration for Merlin’s choice of degree. He was a diagnostician after decades of experience in the emergency room. Despite his age putting him at risk, the ornery doctor refused to stay home, and instead used every precaution he could to not get sick and still do his job. “Has something happened?”
Merlin shook his head silently, and Arthur breathed out a sigh of relief. At least there was that. “So… have you just been worrying?”
Pushing away with a scowl, Merlin growled out, “Don’t say that like I’m an idiot. I know he’s being careful; I know he’s not going to stay home, but I’m not going to stop worrying!”
“I know Merlin.” Arthur pulled him back in. “I just mean that you haven’t heard any bad news. Of course you’re going to worry – you should have told me instead of bottling it all up. I can’t help you if I don’t know you need help.”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “Maybe you should take your own advice, dollop head.”
That pulled a laugh from Arthur. “Oh don’t be such a girls’ blouse, Merlin. Don’t you know that real men don’t talk about their feelings?”
“Hmmm…” Merlin looked around for a moment before snuggling deeper into Arthur’s embrace. “I don’t see Lance around, so I’m not sure what ‘real man’ you’re talking about.”
“Alright! For that, I’m making you sleep!” Arthur lifted Merlin over his shoulder, ignoring his startled cries and bony elbows, and carried him to their bedroom. When Merlin hit the bed, he didn’t look impressed.
“I don’t like being manhandled prat. And I still have work to do!”
Arthur didn’t give him a chance to escape, laying on the bed and pulling Merlin down with him. Both arms were wrapped around Merlin’s chest now, and a leg was tossed over his thigh, so that Merlin was pinned to Arthur’s chest. Glancing down, he grinned. Merlin was doing his best to try and glare him into submission, but it was ruined by the jaw-cracking yawn and exhausted fluttering of his eyes.
“Work can wait till tomorrow. Cuddle now.”
“Humph, what a man…” Merlin drawled, rubbing his face against Arthur’s shirt. “Were you missing your cuddle time Arthur?”
“Very much so,” he whispered.
They still needed to talk about everything. Arthur would have to give Gaius a call, maybe convince him to take some time off if only for his pseudo-son’s health. Merlin still had classes to complete. There were new episodes of Doctor Who to watch.
But for now, there were two men, in a cramped bedroom, in an even more cramped apartment, completely dead to the world, and comfortable in each other’s arms.
Our Little Secret Epilogue (Merlin & Child!Reader, Mordred X Reader)
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14
Summary: An old friend returns from the grave to to find the world he abandoned is not quite as he remembers it, nor are its people.
Key: (Y/N) - your name
Warnings: author insert but u can’t prove anything, cursing probably, grieving, minor injuries, blood, mentions of death, mentions of funerals, REUNIONS
Word Count: 3,526
Note: i’m so proud of this okay lancelot became more important than i thought he would be and also i didn’t kill the dog are u proud of me??? u should be i was really planning on it. Thus ends Our Little Secret. I hope you enjoyed it as much as i did!!!!
nobody guessed the amount of title drops (it was 23) but i wasn’t actually gonna keep this from u lmao no
It was as bright a day as any in Camelot, a day like any other. The knights were training in the field, the children were playing in the lower town, and the king was hunting in the woods with his servant.
“Wonderful day, Merlin. Don’t you think?” Arthur asked, his horse trotting at a leisurely rate.
Merlin laughed. “Sure, if you consider hunting wonderful. I’d rather be home-- asleep.”
“You have no sense of adventure, even after all these years,” Arthur sighed.
“That’s exactly why I have none,” his companion scoffed. “I’m done with adventure, thank you.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, a branch snapped in the forest, making both men jump. Arthur drew his sword when a figure emerged from the woods. However, the man that appeared seemed harmless, as he was grasping his side and was close to collapsing.
“Who are you?” Arthur spat. “Show your face.”
He tried to speak, but refused to look up, so neither could hear him.
“I order you to show yourself!”
It was then he looked up, blood dripping from his mouth as he fell to his knees. His face was pale, his hair wild, yet they both recognised him instantly.
Arthur dismounted, eyes wide as Merlin spoke a name no one had in years.
Days before Samhain, (Y/N) invaded Lancelot’s room. She entered without a word of warning, flopping onto the knight’s small but comfy bed. He stood behind a screen, changing out of his armour.
She blew a raspberry, letting her legs fall over the side of the bed. Suddenly, a thought came to her. She should tell Lancelot.
“I want to be a knight.”
There was a moment of silence. (Y/N) felt her heart clench tighter with each millisecond that passed without speech. Lancelot paused in his movements. She could tell because of the rattle of his chain mail that suddenly stopped. After a second, it was back again and he was finishing up.
“Oh?” He asked.
She felt her breath leave her. “I don’t want to be a serving girl for the rest of my life. But I can’t do anything with magic. So, I want to be a knight.”
“And how--?” He started to ask, appearing from behind the screen, dressed in comfortable clothes rather than his uniform. “--do you plan to do that?”
“Well,” she hummed almost sheepishly, “I’ll need a teacher. And I’ll have to convince Arthur to let me do it.”
Lancelot shrugged and crossed the room. She took up the bottom half of the bed, so he laid horizontally across the top, glancing over at her with a sparkle in his eyes. He lifted his arms to lay under his head.
“That shouldn’t be too difficult.”
He shook his head. “If you’re trained well enough, Arthur would have no quarrel.”
“But I wonder who would teach me,” she said, faking thought.
She obviously had an idea in her head of who would. It was a foolish little hope, but seeing as Lancelot wasn’t against her being a knight, she thought he would accept.
“Someone in mind?” Lancelot teased, knowing full well who she wanted as her teacher.
(Y/N) flipped over on the bed and sat on her knees instead, looking down at the man. “Do you really think I could be a knight?”
“Well, it is hard work,” he said with a joking smirk. “Perhaps something a lady isn’t suited for.”
She huffed and hit his chest without much effort. He laughed loudly and pulled her wrist to drag her into a bear hug. She squeaked in protest and fought against his arms as he tickled her sides. The girl screamed for him to let her go, but he refused.
When he did stop, he hugged her tightly. “I do think you could be one, (Y/N). If anyone could, it would be you.”
“Will you train me, then?” (Y/N) asked with wide eyes, turning to face him.
Lancelot grinned. “After Samhain,” he said, touching his finger to her nose lightly, “We’ll talk about it.”
“YES!” She cheered, flinging herself at his neck to hug him again. “I won’t let you down, Lancelot! I promise!”
He shook his head, a permanent smile painted on his face. “You never do.”
(Y/N) shifted her feet in the grass, sword raised high as she readied herself for the attack. Three men surrounded her, each of different stature and skill. As such, she spun slowly, watching each man’s movement to be sure she was ready for whoever struck first.
Despite expecting it to be the big one, it was actually the smallest, who swung at her with such speed that she almost fell over dodging his blow. Nonetheless, the sword just barely missed her and she whirled around the man, kicking him into the burlier one. Both fell over while she focused her attention on the last, who engaged in a violent duel with her.
In the end, she was simply too quick and used their own size against them, constantly making them run into each other. Eventually, the small and big ones were knocked onto the ground, though the last enemy remained standing. (Y/N) went to hit him again, but he raised his hand to stop her.
“Alright,” he announced, “That’s enough.”
(Y/N) stopped, breathing heavily as he dropped his hand. On the ground, the bigger man stood and helped the smaller one up, both of them out of breath and in pain, seeing as the young woman had rightly bested them.
Leon couldn’t help but a smile at the sight of his two friends so exhausted. “You did well, (Y/N).”
“You’re getting faster,” Percival muttered as he brushed himself off.
She passed her sword to Leon and laughed a little. “It helps that you three are predictable.”
“Predictable!” Gwaine, the last of the trio, huffed indignantly. He reached over to ruffle her hair. “That’s just rude.”
(Y/N) glared at him, smacking his hand away. She smiled playfully. “I’ll show you rude!”
Thus, she leapt upon him, starting a wrestling match that made Percival and Leon laugh, not to mention Elyan and the others around them on the training grounds.
Up in the castle, a shadow lingered in the throne room window, watching the scene below. He was shaken from his own thoughts by a solitary voice questioning him, as it had been for nearly an hour.
“And this sorceress that found you--” Arthur started, “Did she tell you anything? Perhaps why she brought you back or how?”
The others in the room, namely Merlin, Gaius, and Gwen, awaited his answer anxiously.
Lancelot shook his head. “Not anything I could understand. The language she spoke was English, but it was-- it was rugged and almost primitive. It was like riddles. I couldn’t get a word of it.”
“Alright, you handsome bastard. Up and at ‘em. I didn’t murder a man for nothing. Time to send you back to Camelot before my readers murder me.”
Lancelot grasped his side, which still ailed him, but not enough that it prevented him from standing. He looked out the window again, watching as the mysterious lady knight was pulled apart from Sir Gwaine and they gave up their fight in good humour. She was greeted by a young man with dark curls, who kissed her sweetly and said something that made her smile.
Arthur joined him at the window, following his gaze. “See something interesting?”
“A lady knight?” The dead man questioned. “You truly have changed Camelot for the better, Arthur.”
“Thank you,” the king answered. “But...”
He glanced back at the others, who all smiled knowingly. Gwen motioned for him to go on, excited for Lancelot to know, but Merlin beat both of them to it.
“That’s no ordinary lady,” Merlin grinned.
Lancelot turned to him with furrowed eyebrows. “No?” He looked back at the window, then to the others again, eyes wide. “You can’t mean--”
It came to him as a sudden realisation, a brick wall to the face. That lady knight was none other than (Y/N), who had been merely a teenager when Lancelot died. They had been great friends, so much so that the girl considered him an older brother, much like Merlin had been to her. He was a role model to her, seeing as her greatest wish in all the world was to become a knight. It seemed that she had accomplished all that she wanted and more.
“Little (Y/N),” Lancelot whispered in awe. He frowned when he remembered the young man next to her. “And the boy assaulting her?”
Gwen laughed. “That’s Mordred. I think he’s more than earned the right to kiss her.”
“Speak for yourself,” Merlin muttered.
Lancelot glanced at the young warlock. “Nice to know we agree on that,” he sighed. “Anything else I should know?”
“Uh,” Merlin cleared his throat. “They know. About my magic and (Y/N)’s.”
“Finally,” Lancelot laughed. “Must be nice to get that off your chest.”
Merlin laughed. “You have no idea.”
“Lancelot?” A young (Y/N) entered the knight’s room hesitantly, knocking on the door slightly.
He appeared from behind a screen, fully donned in armour and ready to go. He grabbed his sword from a table and slid it into its sheath, finally meeting the teenager’s eyes after he did so.
“Yes?” When she didn’t reply at first, he sighed. “I have to go, (Y/N). The others will leave without me if I don’t and Arthur needs to be protected.”
“Merlin says he’s determined to sacrifice himself,” she whispered.
Lancelot’s gaze softened. He strode over to her and took her by the shoulders into a hug. “He’ll be fine. Merlin and I will keep him safe. I promise.”
“Magic always comes with a price,” she said. “Someone will have to die. But if you let me come, maybe I could find a spell--”
“No. It’s too dangerous. I won’t let you risk discovery like that.” He went silent. “All of them will return. Every single one.”
“Time to go,” said Merlin, appearing in the doorway.
He saw their tight embrace and (Y/N)’s worried expression, cracking a small fond smirk. They were like the two siblings he’d never had, if he was honest.
Merlin sighed a little. “Don’t worry about us or Arthur, (Y/N).”
“That’s cruel of you to ask,” she huffed through Lancelot’s armour, which her face was buried in.
Lancelot laughed a little. “Don’t worry. Merlin will take care of us. Won’t you?”
“I promise,” Merlin grinned, not thinking much of the statement. “We’d better go.”
The sorcerer nodded at Lancelot, then exited the room, giving them a moment before they had to catch up with the others.
The loyal knight released the girl and, with a soft smile, kissing her forehead fondly. He spoke not another word before leaving the room. She went to stop him, to get him to say a proper goodbye, but words failed her. She glanced down at her hands, heart sinking.
“Goodbye,” (Y/N) whispered.
This day was anything but normal for (Y/N).
As soon as morning training was over, she called Spot to her side and proceeded into the forest, otherwise alone. She walked with purpose toward a clearing, which was entirely empty except for a large boulder surrounded by various flora. The rock had been taken from a cave nearby, a place the young woman knew well. It was where she had first befriended Merlin, so it felt appropriate to take a memorial marker from there.
Taking a knee in front of the stone, (Y/N) said a quiet greeting before shifting to sit criss-cross. She laid her sword gently before the marker, having removed it from its sheath. Old Spot then whimpered and lied down around the stone, watching as his master picked at grass and sighed.
After a long vigil of silence, she spoke.
“I told myself I would never drive myself to the point where I needed to talk to you,” she said. “But I suppose things change.”
She spoke not to the dog, but to the stone he protected. She did not speak loud enough for anyone in the woods to hear her, but if they lingered at the edge of the clearing, her voice would be clear as day.
“I miss you,” she muttered. “It’s difficult, watching everyone so happy, so peaceful. And knowing that you never got to see it. It’s difficult to be happy. Whenever I imagined myself as a knight, you were always there with me; teaching me, training me. But you’re not here and--”
(Y/N) sniffled, begging herself not to cry. She took a deep breath to restore her sanity and continued to speak.
“I think you’d be proud of me. I hope you’re proud of me.” Her words were almost silent, but her next statement was louder. “That day-- the day when it happened, I thought it was Arthur I needed to say goodbye to. It was him I cried over and recounted every good memory with. When he came back, I was happy beyond words, but, then…”
The poor girl had begun to cry, tears dripping down her face and onto the grass. Her tears watered the flowers, but they drowned her own heart.
“Arthur has returned!”
The second the cry went out, (Y/N) was racing from the highest tower in the castle to the courtyard. She had been keeping watch for the knights, Arthur, and Merlin for hours, but the gate guards saw them before she did, miraculously. Nearly tripping over herself multiple times, the girl managed to descend tens upon tens of staircases and make it to the entrance steps before even Gwen.
When she made it there, she found all of them dismounting their horses. (Y/N) barely registered their dismal faces, especially when they saw her.
She raced down the stairs to meet Arthur as soon as he was on the ground, crushing him in a hug. The others glanced between each other. Merlin found himself unable to breathe as he looked at the girl, so happy that Arthur had made it back alive. How could he give her the news?
Arthur was shaking as he held her. He was frozen otherwise, unable to move or to give her comfort. His face was solemn, while his eyes were bloodshot from crying.
“You’re alive! You made it!” (Y/N) rambled to him, not noticing his odd behaviour.
Meanwhile, Gwen appeared at the entranceway and began to descend the stairs. She, however, instantly noticed that something was off and stopped before she reached Arthur and (Y/N).
“I knew you’d be alright. Lancelot said you’d be, right L--?” She looked around him to address the knight, but he wasn’t there. “Where’s Lancelot?
Leon, Gwaine, Elyan, and Percival were the only knights standing there. They could not bear to meet her gaze, except for Leon. He had given the speech to family members of fallen knights many times, but this one defeated him. He could not find the words to comfort her.
“Is he alright? Is he hurt? Did you leave him in the woods?” (Y/N) began to spout out random excuses. The one most prominent in her mind was one she dared not speak. “Did Morgana take him? Do we need to rescue him? Is he--?”
Arthur interrupted her, pulling something from his saddlebag and holding it out to her.
It was a red cape, dirtied and torn, but neatly folded. This was ruined when (Y/N) clutched it in her shaking hands, turning it into a bundle of dusty cloth.
“What do you think?”
“Hm, it’s a little long for you.”
“It’s not like I’m tripping over it. I’ll grow into it, anyway.”
“I doubt you’ll grow more, (Y/N). You’ll just be stuck as a tiny person forever.”
“Hey! I’m not tiny!”
Tears stung (Y/N)’s eyes.
The rest of the world became fuzzy around her, even Gwen’s light sob from the middle of the staircase. Gaius had appeared at the top of the steps, but she didn’t notice him either. Her gaze was frozen on the cape in her hands, though it was blurred by tears.
“The cost was too high,” Arthur whispered. He closed his eyes and took her head in his hands, pressing his forehead against hers fondly. “I’m sorry.”
When he pulled back, (Y/N) spoke in a hushed whisper. “You’re lying. You’re lying. He-- he can’t-- he--”
“(Y/N)--” Merlin said, appearing at her side.
He reached forward to touch her arm, perhaps to draw her into a hug, but her reaction was instant. She whirled to face him and, closing the bundle of red cloth in her left fist, began punching his chest. It was painful, Merlin admitted, but he took it. He knew she was hurting.
“YOU PROMISED!” She shrieked, her breath coming out in sobs. “You promised! You-- you--!”
Her movements slowed and weakened, her arms soon falling at her sides. Her knuckles were cut open with the force of her punches, which broke Merlin’s heart. He grabbed her arms and pulled her into a tight embrace, cheeks stained with his own tears.
“You promised,” she whispered, almost gagging on the lack of oxygen in her lungs.
“I know,” he replied shakily. “I know. I couldn’t stop him. He wouldn’t let me stop him. I’m sorry.”
“I cried for hours. I was incorrigible. Leon held my hand all the way from my room to the funeral. It was the only way I would go. Agravaine ripped your cloak from my hands, intending to burn it with your sword.” (Y/N) let out a laugh that was halfway to a sob. “Percival ripped it right back, threatening to chop his hands off if he touched me again. I think he really was afraid of me after that, seeing how dear the knights considered me.”
She looked away from the boulder for a moment, touching the cloak around her shoulders with fond gentleness.
“I still wear it. It makes me feel like you’re there, sometimes.” Suddenly, her voice broke with her next statement. “You never said goodbye.”
“I know,” a voice whispered upon the breeze.
(Y/N) knew it was not real, but she felt it resonate within her. She felt a presence, hoping her old friend was listening from the spirit world. It took everything in her to wipe away her tears and calm her breathing, regaining her composure slowly but surely.
“I think of you often,” she gasped through weak breaths. “I miss you terribly. I wonder what you would say if you were here.”
“I would tell you how proud of you I am.”
The words had barely reached (Y/N)’s ears when she flung herself from the ground, sword firmly in hand. In a second, she was facing the intruder with her sword at the ready, convinced that they were an enemy.
She did not hesitate to draw her weapon, despite the voice’s words, because she knew for a fact that Lancelot was dead. Even when faced with a person who looked exactly like him and sounded like him, she did not lower her sword. (Y/N) was convinced that her mind was playing tricks on her-- or someone else was.
“How proud I am,” he continued, unfazed, “Of the person you’ve become, the things you’ve done.”
It was when these words left his mouth that (Y/N)’s grip on her sword slipped. It didn’t fall entirely, but her weapon was lowered. She could hardly believe her eyes. The sight of Lancelot was so real that she doubted for a moment that he was her imagination.
“I would tell you--” He wore a small smile on his face as he exhaled sharply. “I would tell you that I’ve missed you more than anything. And how sorry-- how sorry I am for not saying goodbye.”
(Y/N) let her sword fall out of her hand, landing on the grass with a quiet thump. She rushed forward, wrapping her arms around Lancelot in desperation. A smile painted her expression, but tears still found their way down her cheeks. He took the hug gratefully, embracing her back just as tightly and burying his head in her hair.
They took no notice of the small entourage that had insisted upon following Lancelot. Arthur, Gwen, Merlin, and the knights, including Mordred, lingered in the forest behind them, watching fondly as the two were reunited. Gwaine made a joke about being robbed of his Lancelot title before promptly wiping at his eyes suspiciously. No one pointed it out.
Meanwhile, little old Spot yipped at the newcomer and ran up to his ankles, sniffing at him curiously. Spot never forgot a face.
“You’re alive,” (Y/N) whispered. “How?”
He pulled away to brush her hair back, examining her face in wondrous awe. “It doesn’t matter. I’m here. And I’ll never leave you again.”
“Promise?” She asked, looking up at him as if she were a child again.
He nodded, a soft smile reflecting the state of his heart. “Promise.”
boi im cryin
Merlin Tags: @pearlll09
Iwanna Stay With Merlin
8Series: Merlin (BBC)
Genre: Crackfic, Humor
Summary: Inspired by Icarly Episode “Iwanna Stay With Spencer” so you already know what the fuck this is going to be but imma tell you anyway. Merlin goes away for a few days and leave Gwen with an alarmingly extensive care plan for Arthur.
Read on AO3 . FFN
Like what I do? Buy me a coffee! . Commissions are open!
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“Oh, Gwen!” Merlin called across the training yard, ducking past Arthur and jogging to her side. “I’ve written up Arthur’s care plan for you.”
“Care plan?” Arthur repeated incredulously, “Merlin, I’m a grown man.”
“Yeah, right,” Merlin scoffed, turning back to Gwen.
“You’ll only be gone a few days, I think I can handle him,” Gwen said, amusement evident.
Like he hadn’t heard her Merlin pulled a scroll from his pocket and it unfurled to an alarmingly long length.
“All of that?” Arthur called.
“See, Princess, I knew you were too prissy to be a knight,” Gwaine laughed.
Gwen looked at Merlin with wide eyes, trying to conceal her threatening laughter.
“Here’s a list of what he likes for breakfast, and all of his favorite soups and stews-”
“Aren’t those the same things?”
“No there’s a distinction. Then there’s his sleep schedule, don’t let him stay up past midnight or he’ll be cranky in the morning, and if he eats less than two hours before bed he’ll have nightmares.”
Arthur spluttered in indignation as Gwen leaned in with much more interest now.
“He’ll try to convince you that he’ll get up on his own if you let him sleep in but don’t believe him, he won’t. I’ve written his schedule for the next four days out down here, and here’s his speech for the feast five days from now so he can start memorizing it,” unbeknownst to Merlin the knights started exchanging half awed and half-amused looks.
“I’ve already polished the buttons on his good jacket and mended his favorite shirts,”
“This really is a lot,” Gwen said, more to herself than to Merlin.
“I’m starting to understand why Merlin’s always so tired,” Leon joked, “Arthur is a handful!”
“Also he’ll complain about back pain all day if he doesn’t sleep on the right pillow, I marked it with red thread for you, so make sure that’s on the right side of the bed.”
“I can’t be that picky!” Arthur protested, “you’re making things up to make me look bad in front of Guinevere!”
“Oh, and am I making up that you have to have your milk warmed up or you’ll get a bellyache?” Merlin snapped, tossing an irritated look over his shoulder at Arthur, who hushed at the raucous laughter from the other knights.
“How do you remember all this stuff, Merlin?” Elyan asked.
“I’ve been Arthur’s servant for years, I know him better than he knows himself!”
“Let’s see what other special care instructions Merlin’s leaving for the baby sitter!” Gwaine began, making a grab for the scroll.
“Hey!” Merlin scolded, “I stayed up all knight writing this all down for Gwen so Arthur wouldn’t be a nightmare while I was gone!”
“And I appreciate the effort,” Gwen said, taking the scroll gingerly and inspecting it with much trepidation, “but really Merlin, he can’t be that bad!”
“Suit yourself!” Merlin said, shrugging. “You’ll see!”
One week later Merlin carried the bag laden down with Giaus’s supplies through the door and was met with a warm smile and warmer hug by the court physician.
“Merlin, you’re a day late, is everything alright?”
“Good, I got everything you needed I just had to wait an extra day because one of the suppliers was late, how was Arthur?” Gaius raised his eyebrows in a very recognizable expression.
“Gwen will be glad to have you back.” Merlin sighed.
“I’ll go check on him.”
“Wait, you haven’t had dinner!” Gaius called to the already closing door.
Merlin stepped through the already open door with some trepidation, already picking up on the sound of arguing from Arthur’s chambers.
“This would be so much easier if you just let me help you!” Gwen said, using her best rational voice.
“No! Just go get Gaius or somebody!”
“Gaius is busy preparing the remedy that Queen Annis requested, Arthur, he can’t spare any time to help you dress, just let me!”
“No way! Go get a male servant! What’s that useless idiot Merlin up too, he said he was going to be back before the feast!”
“I don’t know where he is, he’s obviously running late like you will be if you don’t let me help you! I won’t peek, I promise!”
“Um, need a hand?” Merlin asked, already grinning in amusement at the two.
“Merlin!” Gwen said, relief playing across her features. She crossed the room in three strides and pulling him in for a hug. “Thank goodness you’re back,” she muttered.
“Merlin?” Arthur’s voice called from behind the screen.
“I’m here Arthur. Would you like me to help you dress?” He asked, grinning at Gwen.
“Yes! Get your lazy arse back here!” Merlin chuckled and ducked behind the screen, laughing again when he saw Arthur tangled and trapped in his own shirt. Merlin carefully untangled him and straightened the garment before slipping Arthur’s overshirt on next.
“Thank goodness you’re back, Merlin. What took you so long?” Arthur asked, looking peeved. Merlin sighed, shaking his head.
“What would you do without me?”
“Don’t be an idiot, Merlin, I need to finish dressing for the feast.”
“Of course, sire.”
I’m Yours Ch. 7
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Merlin (BBC) I T I Merlin & Arthur I 37k WIP
Merlin had secrets, and Arthur knew nothing of them, until, slowly, he did.
In which Arthur slowly unravels the mystery that is Merlin, and begins to realize just how much he doesn’t know.
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As Arthur walked back from Elyan’s chambers, he heard passing servants talk of an execution, and passed by a window to look out on the courtyard. A pyre was being built, and unless his father had caught a sorcerer in the night, Arthur was certain that the king was going to burn the man in their dungeons. And that seemed quite unfair. Arthur had always hated the pyre. The smell. The screams. Arthur couldn’t imagine what it must feel like, and though his father had long claimed that burning magic-users was the only real way of getting rid of them, Arthur had known for a long time that once he was king, a pyre would never be built again.
Currently, there was nothing Arthur could do to save sorcerers from the flames, but his father had no evidence (of that Arthur was almost certain) that the man in their dungeons was a sorcerer. He changed directions, hoping to find his father at breakfast in the dining hall.
“Arthur?” Arthur turned on his heel as he saw Merlin with a tray of what was probably his own breakfast. “You’re dressed! Wait, isn’t that what you wore yesterday?”
“And how would you know?” Arthur asked, sleep deprivation probably getting the better of him.
“Because I pick out your clothes every morning,” Merlin said as a matter-of-fact, “Why are you walking around this early and in yesterday’s clothes? You would never get up this early of your own free will.”
“You sure do think highly of me,” Arthur said sarcastically, hoping that Merlin would respond to his taunts and stop thinking about what Arthur may or may not be up to.
“Did you spend the night at Gwen’s?” Merlin speculated sharply and raised an eyebrow.
“I did not,” Arthur answered quickly, which probably made it seem like he was lying, “And please don’t suggest those kinds of things in public.”
“Don’t worry, sire,” Merlin bowed theatrically, “It’s our secret. Will you still be eating breakfast this morning?”
“Of course,” Arthur said, realizing how hungry he was, “I would also appreciate a bath.”
“Ask nicely, and I might give it to you.”
“That’s an order, Merlin.” Arthur said, and Merlin laughed as he disappeared back down the hall with Arthur’s food.
Arthur found his father exactly where he thought he would be.
“Arthur!” His father exclaimed happily, and gestured to the chair beside him, “Will you be joining me for breakfast?”
“No, I’ve already eaten,” Arthur lied easily, “I merely had a question.”
“Yes, well, sorcerers must burn. That’s just how it is. I know you don’t like it much, but sometimes harsh methods have to be used to ensure the peace.”
“You don’t even know if he’s a sorcerer,” Arthur said through gritted teeth, trying his hardest to suppress the anger that always seemed to bubble forth when his father spoke of magic. He remembered back when he hadn’t cared, when he had followed his father’s beliefs blindly. Now, he wasn’t so sure. Now, every time the king spoke of magic, Arthur had learned to not listen. Refusing to let his love for his father be blinded by the madness of the king.
“I have had the guards report back to me, and it would have been impossible for him to get into the courtyard without the use of magic. Gaius too believes it to be the most likely conclusion, and how else would you explain how he got into your chambers through your locked window?”
Arthur bit his lip. Nothing he could say now would sway his father. Arthur almost felt guilty for thinking everything would be better when he became king, but he wanted to learn from his father’s mistakes. He left without saying another word.
Arthur came back to his chambers to see the table set up for dinner, the tub half filled with water, and a kettle warming over the fire, suggesting that Merlin was indeed preparing that bath for him. There was also a fresh set of clothes on his bed for when he was all cleaned up, and Arthur sat back in his chair to relax and finally eat.
Merlin came back once in a while with more water, pouring in the boiling water when it was ready and filling up the kettle again, knowing that Arthur loved hot baths even if they were harder to prepare. Merlin didn’t always let Arthur have his hot baths, which in all fairness was fine, so Arthur always appreciated it when Merlin took the time to make it extra hot. He always promised himself to be extra nice to his servant on those days, and it seemed Merlin had begun to catch on because he prepared hot baths for Arthur more and more often.
“Do you want to hear your list of duties today?” Merlin asked, puring in another kettle full of boiling water and then preparing to heat up another batch. Arthur knew he would continue to warm the water until Arthur was in the bath.
“I don’t think it matters if I want to or not,” Arthur said casually, never able to escape his princely duties even if he had days where he really wanted to.
“Oh really?” Merlin responded sarcastically, “Because the last couple of days you have been very good at ignoring things. Like training with the knights. Or conducting that research on the new road you wanted to make. You have literally been doing whatever you want, which, of course, you get away, because you’re the prince.”
There was no anger in Merlin’s voice, so Arthur could only smile fondly as Merlin continued his rant about how Arthur never did what he was supposed to while he worked so hard for him.
“And what have you been doing then?” Arthur asked, “Did you finish cleaning my uncle’s chambers?”
“I did, as a matter of fact, and I also did this,” Merlin handed Arthur one of the lengthiest scrolls he had ever seen in his life, and quickly skimmed through it, slowly realizing what it was. He couldn’t even hide his proud smile.
“You did the research!” He proclaimed, extremely impressed with Merlin’s findings. He looked up at his servant who looked slightly surprised to hear Arthur praise him, but Arthur was too tired to cover up his pride with snarky insults.
“Well, when Gwaine came, I kind of figured that I might use the fact that I couldn’t get anything productive done. I did all the interviews with Gwaine as my official witness, because, you know, the word of a knight means everything and all that. His signature should be at the bottom. Anyway, would you like to take the bath before the water gets cold?”
The promise of hot water made Arthur move quickly and he was soon submerged in the tub, thoughtlessly scrubbing his arms with a soaped cloth. Merlin decided to clean the table before coming back to Arthur, giving him a little bit of space before tending to him.
“Have you seen the pyre?” Merlin asked, trying to make it seem like he was picking topics at random, though Arthur knew the pyre bothered him. Merlin had always been outspoken about how he hated the fires.
“I tried to talk my father out of it,” Arthur said mindlessly, and he noticed as Merlin stopped washing his back for just a moment before continuing.
“Well, he’s a stubborn man,” Merlin said, almost as if he was comforting Arthur or himself. There wasn’t much they could do about the situation as they weren’t exactly dealing with an innocent person. If it had been an innocent person stuck in their dungeons, well, the two of them might have been discussing how to break him out without the king knowing.
“Did he talk yet? The prisoner?” Merlin continued, and Arthur bit his lip. Merlin couldn’t see his face anyway.
“No, not really. I had hoped his execution date approaching would make him more willing.”
“Good luck,” Merlin said genuinely as he put down the cloth he had been using, reaching for the soap to cleanse Arthur’s hair, rolling up his sleeves to make sure they wouldn’t get wet.
Arthur took a look at Merlin’s still bandaged wrist, “Does it still hurt?” He said, gesturing the wrist, and Merlin looked at it.
“Not really. Although it’s not as flexible as it used to be.”
“Can I see?” Arthur asked, but held out his hand to let Merlin know that he didn’t have a choice. Merlin let Arthur do as he wanted.
Removing the bandages was easy enough, but Arthur was slightly shocked to see how well the wrist had healed. Unless Arthur had played up the injury in his head (which he was sure he hadn’t), then the burn almost seemed smaller, and Arthur could have sworn that even burns that had caused less damaged would have looked redder and more damaged than what Merlin was currently displaying. It wasn’t that the scar had disappeared, it was merely less than Arthur had assumed.
“It looks better,” he merely said, as he reapplied the bandage, and Merlin shrugged.
“I don’t scar easily,” he mentioned almost as an afterthought, but seemed to regret it the moment the comment was out of his mouth, “Lean back,” he ordered instead, beginning to wash Arthur’s hair and not letting the prince say another word, unless he wanted to run the risk of getting soap in his mouth.
But the comment had been interesting. Merlin didn’t scar easily. A fact he mentioned easily and without thought, yet his body was seemingly covered in scars. There were five Arthur was aware of - two of which still had unknown origins - and Arthur was entirely certain that there were more he didn’t know of. But Arthur thought back to the scar he had seen on their way to Mercia. If Merlin didn’t scar easily, how close to death had he been then? What had happened? With Merlin’s reaction to his own blunder, Arthur doubted he would talk about it right now, so he decided not to push the topic as Merlin washed out the soap and left to get a towel so Arthur could dry off.
“You never told me what my plans for the day were,” Arthur remembered as he dried his hair, casually walking behind the screen and grabbing the clothes Merlin had laid out for him.
“Well,” Merlin began as if he was about to start an endless list of chores Arthur had to do, “Assuming that you will be interrogating the prisoner again, I can cross off the first three items on your list, and go straight to your afternoon training sessions with the knights.”
“Is that really necessary?” Arthur questioned. Training was usually great fun, but if he was as behind on his duties, as Merlin was leading him to believe, then shouldn’t he be doing that instead?
“Yes, Arthur, it is very important. As First Knight you have to conduct your little test of the aspiring knights, which was supposed to have taken place yesterday. Or did Leon forget to mention that you, when you got his report yesterday?”
Arthur vaguely remembered Leon having said something like that, but he had honestly barely listened to it.
“He might have mentioned it,” Arthur said truthfully, although Merlin would surely think he was joking.
“Then there is a council meeting of which you should probably read the scroll I gave you if you want to actually make a convincing argument. Then there is a feast for… someone or something, I don’t really remember this, but you should definitely be in the dining hall wearing something nice. Perhaps the new outfit I had made for you?”
“Yes, that would be… ideal,” Arthur said, mentally planning out his day as Merlin spoke, “Meet me in the armory an hour after noon,” Arthur ordered as he walked out from behind the screen, “And bring your research with you. You can lecture me, while you prepare my armor.”
“Lecture you?” Merlin looked at him with a raised eyebrow (he had definitely learned that from Gaius), “Are you sure you’ve had enough sleep?”
“Oh I definitely haven’t,” Arthur scoffed, as he left the room, “Not all of us have the luxury of rest, Merlin.” Arthur didn’t even have to be in the same room as Merlin to know that his servant was rolling his eyes at Arthur’s dramatic declaration.
Although noon was still some ways away, Arthur still went to the dungeons preparing for what would likely be the last time he would speak with the prisoner. As Elyan and Gwaine had yet to arrive, most probably because they were still at the training grounds, he decided to speak with some of the guards to learn more about their prisoner.
The information was nothing groundbreaking. The man was not talkative but always thanked the guards who gave him food and water, he even greeted the guards whenever the watch changed, and informed them whenever he went to sleep. He had made no attempts of escape and had shown no signs of magic, although he had seemingly sighed very loudly as he had seen the preparations for the pyre begin. Arthur could sympathize with that at least.
Elyan and Gwaine arrived shortly before noon, and Arthur ordered the guards away for the last time, as he entered the cell. Elyan had with him a single vial, which he handed to Arthur in plain view of the prisoner who followed the interaction with his eyes.
“My father has ordered your execution tomorrow morning,” Arthur said and the man nodded slowly, possibly already aware of it.
“I can see the pyre from my cell,” he confirmed.
Arthur held up the vial, “In my hand, I hold what I believe to be a truth serum. However, I cannot be certain. You claim to not have intended to take my life, but the evidence speaks against you, so I shall offer you a choice. You can drink this and if your story is indeed true, and I cannot find you guilty of any serious crime, you will not be executed. If it turns out you were indeed trying to kill me, I cannot save you, but for your cooperation I will let you choose the method with which you would like to die. I must repeat though, I cannot be certain that this is not poison.”
“I see,” the man said, possibly weighing his choices, “If I drink it and it is poison, I would like your word that you will kill me quickly. I do not wish to suffer. Likewise, if my truth is not well-received, I would like to die by your sword.”
Arthur nodded: “You have my word.”
The prisoner held out his hand. Arthur handed him the vial, and watched as he drank it without hesitation. When nothing happened within a minute’s time, Arthur assumed that the potion had done its job. He decided that he might start his questions from the beginning.
“How did you get into my chambers undetected?”
“To enter the city, I used magic to hide my presence,” the man said, proving that the potion did indeed work, as no sane man would willingly admit to having magic to the prince of Camelot, “To enter the courtyard, I used a sedative to knock the guards out. I then climbed the side of the castlewall to reach your chambers, and I unlocked you window, using magic.”
“And did you attempt to take my life?”
“No, I did not.”
“No?” Arthur repeated, almost to confirm it for himself, “There were tools for killing found on your person. Who did you attempt to kill? The king?”
“No,” the prisoner repeated again, “I was tasked with killing the prince’s servant.”
The information took Arthur aback, but he needed everything he could get out of this man. He tried his best to remain calm and not thinking about how on earth Merlin could have created enemies strong and wealthy enough to send bounty hunters after him.
“Why did you enter my chambers if I was not the target?”
“I do not know your servant,” the prisoner explained, “But if he is yours, he would come to your chambers by morning. My intentions were to sneak in under the cover of the night and wait for the arrival of your servant.”
“Then why were you standing over my bed?”
“You were a complication. I was going to put you into a deep slumber.”
“I do not have that kind of power.” He chuckled, “I was going to use a sleeping draught.”
“Why do you want my servant dead?” Arthur asked puzzled. No one should want Merlin dead.
“It is not I who wants him dead, merely the one who employed me.”
“And who might that have been?”
“I do not know. I did not see her face, she only provided me with a target, a map of the castle and half of my pay.”
“I see,” Arthur nodded slowly, “May I ask you another question?”
“I cannot lie to you.”
“Yes, but this question is somewhat personal, and since the potion does not force you to speak, you may hold your tongue if you do not wish to answer.”
The man nodded, understanding.
“You said that you would never kill someone you believed to be completely innocent, yet in your line of work, I find it difficult to believe that you have never once killed someone free of guilt. You seem honorable, yet you kill for money. Surely you must understand that what you do is not right. On what grounds does my servant deserve to die?”
“I will share with you my story, my lord,” the man said, addressing him as nobility for the first time, “My wife and I both have magic. She is an expert in the healing arts and possess much more powerful magic than someone like me. The magic I have, we used mostly to help our crops grow strong, or sometimes light a candle. The trifle tricks I used to sneak into your chambers are more or less the extent of my powers.”
Arthur nodded slowly as the man spoke, even if he knew nothing of magic. Arthur would have assumed that being able to create fire would make you powerful, but it seemed not to be the case. At least not according to the man before him. It made Arthur curious to just how much he didn’t know of this forbidden art.
“The Great Purge began not long after we had wed, and with my wife pregnant and nowhere to go, we took our few possessions and fled Camelot. Before The Purge, Camelot had been the only place safe for people like us, so we could never settle down, and we could never use our powers in fear of persecution. Yet we had to make a living somehow, we had a child on the way, and I took up bounty hunting, believing it to be the quickest way to earn money without anyone asking unnecessary questions. All I wanted to do was to protect my family
“But as you said, I do believe that there is some honor left in me. Even with magic as weak as mine, I can detect lies and truths. I always require my client to tell me how my target has wronged them, and I will take the job based on their answer.”
“My servant is a good man,” Arthur insisted, “Good and kind. He would never hurt a soul.”
The man smiled a little to himself. It was nothing malicious. It was as if Arthur had innocently asked if the sky was green. “Even in the dark cell, I can see that you believe that to be true, but my client tells a different story. A story which does not paint your servant in so kind of a light.”
Arthur could see Gwaine clench his fist in the corner of his eyes, and Arthur took a moment to compose himself, “What did she say?”
“I asked how he had wronged her. She told me that they had been friends. They had been friends and he had poisoned her. There were no lies, only a sorrowful truth.”
Arthur looked down. The air in the room had shifted. Even with the power of truth on his side, Arthur no longer had control of this situation. He would need time to think all of this over. He needed to stop the conversation about Merlin.
“Why did you drink the potion?” Arthur asked instead, “Why not tell us this from the beginning?”
“My lord, I am a magic user. The truth would have had me killed regardless of my intentions, yet when I saw the pyre, I was ready to share with you the truth. Even more so, despite my promise to my client of keeping silent, I do believe that I have made a mistake regarding your servant. You have my deepest apologies.”
“If that was your intention, why drink the potion, running the risk of being poisoned?”
“Because you gave me your word that I would not burn, and I saw that you spoke the truth. For you should know, Arthur Pendragon, that every time I, or any of my kin, step foot in this kingdom, the fire haunts our minds.”
“Thank you,” Arthur said slowly.
“What for, young prince?”
“For telling me your story,” Arthur said, “It gave me a lot to think about.”
“You have granted me a merciful death. For that I am grateful.”
“No,” Arthur said determined, “Despite everything, I believe you have a good heart, an honorable soul. I do not wish to kill good people and let your family suffer as a consequence.”
“Tonight, I shall free you. You will be provided with a horse, provisions and gold enough to make up for you should have earned had your mission been successful.” Arthur took a breath. “I do this on the following conditions: You will no longer kill to provide for your family, you will not use your magic to harm this kingdom, and when I become king, you shall return to Camelot, where I can guarantee your safety. Do you accept these terms?”
“Yes, my lord. You have my word,” the man vowed and bowed his head in gratitude.
Arthur left the cell with Gwaine and Elyan, knowing full well that as soon as they were out of earshot, they were going to give him hell for this.
“Are you sure that was wise?” “How could you do that?!” They both said (or in Gwaine’s case, yelled) at the same time.
Arthur looked at them until they decided to just let Elyan speak first: “Even if everything he told you was the truth, he is still a murderer,” Elyan pointed out, “And you’re just going to let him go free? Going directly against your father, assuming that this is all something you will do behind his back?”
“He gave me his word that he would uphold his end of the deal. He couldn’t lie about that.”
“That shouldn’t matter,” Elyan pushed, “This guy works for Morgana. I can understand not wanting to burn him at the stake, but this seems to be going too far. The truth serum is just that, a truth serum. It doesn’t bind him to do anything, if he should change his mind.”
“It’s a gamble I’m willing to take,” Arthur said wanting to explain his choice, “That man wasn’t there of his own free will, he did not choose to become a murderer, that’s on us. We did this to him, to his family and to everyone like him.” Like Morgana, “I am investing in the future.”
“You let someone who was going to kill Merlin go, is what you did,” Gwaine said, sounding almost disappointed in Arthur. No, not almost, that was just what Arthur wanted to think. “This whole thing that we’re doing,” Gwaine gestured to the three of them, “Is to keep Merlin safe. Or did you forget, my lord?” Gwaine spat out the last word as he turned around and left, likely going to the tavern, where he could insult Arthur under the guise of being drunk. It was fair, Arthur thought, this decision could backfire. However, he was willing to take the chance.
“I’ll trust your decision, sire,” Elyan said slowly, as if he didn’t trust him at all, “Or at least, I’ll trust that you’ll look after Merlin. But if he gets hurt, I won’t protect you.”
“Protect me from what?”
“Gwaine,” Elyan said and gestured down the hall, “I don’t even know what Lancelot would do if he found out, but if he gets mad at you, you definitely deserve it.”
He dismissed Elyan then, and went directly to the armory, unsurprisingly finding Merlin there with his armor laid out, ready for him to wear. Merlin was reading through his research, possibly figuring out how to best present it to Arthur, as he noticed the prince’s arrival.
“You’re early,” he remarked and folded the lengthy parchment up.
“So are you,” Arthur responded teasingly, “I was unaware that you were capable of that.”
Merlin let out a giggle as he put down the parchment and reached across the table to reveal a plate of food: “I figured you would be hungry,” he said and gave Arthur the plate. The lunch wasn’t impressive, but it was a perfect pre-training meal, so Arthur could only smile.
“Okay, I know you’ve been waiting all day to do this. Lecture away.”
And so Merlin did. While Arthur ate, Merlin told him about the various people who had expressed a desire for a new road, and how it could benefit different professions. Merlin had gotten statements from nobles and commoners alike, apparently using Arthur’s name and the presence of Gwaine to make some reluctant noblemen speak. A clever move on Merlin’s part, which Arthur would grant him no praise for whatsoever.
When Arthur was ready to go to the training grounds, Merlin had finished his (quite impressive) lecture, during which Arthur had remarked that Merlin had been rather enthusiastic about the whole thing. It had never been uncommon for Merlin to take interest in politics, Arthur’s life or anything else concerning Arthur, but Arthur hadn’t seen much of ot lately, at least not to the extent where Merlin was smiling giddily to himself as he proudly gave Arthur advice.
Arthur had always wondered why Merlin took such interest in politics. Even before Arthur had begun listening to his advice, Merlin had slowly educated himself about Camelot and how the kingdom worked. In the beginning, Arthur had thought Merlin did it to get an insight in Arthur’s life, as Arthur didn’t really open up to him that much, but over the years, it merely seemed like Merlin did it for himself. Arthur knew that between working for him and assisting Gaius, Merlin was an avid reader, and quite often ended up getting behind on his chores because he was reading up about the history of Camelot. Arthur usually forgave this, because it gave them something to talk about. And if it allowed Merlin to help him write a few speeches, well, it worked out great for both of them.
Of course, taking an interest didn’t mean being an expert. Arthur had been preparing to become king his entire life, and was not above correcting Merlin when he got something wrong, or use an entire morning lecturing his servant about the purpose of military power. But every so often, Merlin could offer insight Arthur wouldn’t normally have access to, and it made Arthur happy to have Merlin as his servant, as his friend. Because Merlin would always speak up, always question things and offer his own opinion whether Arthur asked or not, and Arthur was happy to see Merlin doing it again, having not realized when and why he had stopped. A voice in Arthur’s mind whispered that it was because Arthur was investigating Merlin, and his servant was well aware of that, but he ignored it. Right now, their friendship was back on track and it was wonderful.
It spoke of how long it had been since Arthur had been to the training grounds, when Leon was surprised to see him. They began training as usual, Arthur inviting Percival to be his sparring partner, before he would begin the tests, wanting the aspiring knights to have some idea of what they would be up against.
Before beginning the tests, Arthur let Leon run him through the nobles he would be facing and was less than impressed to hear how they’d done in sparring sessions against other knights, and even amongst themselves. Arthur didn’t expect a single one of them to last more than ten seconds against him. Fifteen if he went easy on them.
There were ten aspiring knights, and the first five of them went down as quickly as Arthur had predicted. At the sidelines, Merlin was sat, supposedly sharpening his sword, but he spent more time laughing and smiling whenever Arthur knocked down another person. More than once, Arthur thought that Merlin was handier with a sword than half of these boys, and that was a scary thought considering how awful Merlin was with any kind of weapon.
It was all over less than an hour after it had begun, and Arthur did not hide his disappointment as he left the training grounds, letting Leon know that he should continue training them until they were ready to face him again.
Merlin quickly got Arthur out of his armor, and the prince set off to the council meeting.
It was a long affair, but Arthur kept his attention and ended the meeting by doing his own presentation, which slowly started winning people over. Arthur knew his father wouldn’t back him up, not because he necessarily disagreed, but because he was (not so) subtly testing Arthur’s ability to persuade people by his own merits. But regardless of his father’s support, Arthur thought that by the next council meeting, he should half of the council on his side, which would give him enough support to get his vision through. And he had Merlin to thank for that.
By the end of the meeting, his father pulled him aside.
“You did great,” he said proudly, “Your uncle truly wasn’t wrong when he said how much you have grown.”
Arthur smiled a little at the praise, “Thank you, father, but I still have much to learn.”
“Of course,” his father agreed, although still smiling as he changed the subject, “How did the interrogation go?”
“It was unfruitful,” Arthur lied, “I suspect that he didn’t act of his own accord, but I have no proof.”
“A shame,” his father said, “He shall be executed tomorrow, and we shall worry about him no more.”
“Of course father,” Arthur dismissed himself, “I’ll see you later at the feast.”
Merlin met him again in his chambers, where he was ready with Arthur’s new clothes. It was plain as day that Guinevere had helped Merlin out with this particular task, as Merlin knew nothing about fashion. The dress shirt Merlin presented him with was particularly beautiful. It was almost all white, but golden seams lined the hem of the sleeves, and on the left chest, a golden dragon was embroidered into it.
“Do you like it?” Merlin asked cheekily, knowing that he had done a good job.
“I do,” Arthur admitted, “How much did you and Guinevere pay for this?”
“We didn’t pay anything for it, sire,” Merlin smiled, and Arthur had to resist the urge to ruffle his hair.
“Okay, how much did I pay for it?”
“Ouch,” Merlin said and fake winched, “I don’t think you want to know.”
Arthur shook his head: “So just because I’m the prince, you think I can spend whatever I like on pretty clothes?”
“Of course not. But the king of Camelot should have nice things, and unless you get into a violent fight tonight, this shirt will last at least a couple of years. Assuming you don’t grow too fat.”
“I’ll have you know that this is pure muscle!”
“Of course it is, sire. Now off you go. You don’t want to keep your father waiting.”
“Aren’t you coming?” Arthur questioned as Merlin send him out and moved to leave in the opposite direction.
“I promised Gaius I’d help him with disposing of expired potions. I had Gwen stand in for me if it makes you happy?”
“I’ll allow it,” Arthur agreed content, “Have fun.”
The feast was almost like the calm before the storm. Despite wanting to relax, Arthur held back considerably on the wine in order to successfully execute the escape plan in the night. He knew he would have to do it alone, both Gwaine and Elyan not supporting the idea (of which he didn’t blame them), and Arthur couldn’t run the risk of telling anyone else. At the very least, he knew both knights were loyal enough to not say anything to anyone, even if they thought he was in the wrong. At multiple times during the evening, it looked like Guinevere wanted to ask him what was on his mind, but with Arthur sitting right next to his father, she could do nothing more than send him worried looks, which he merely responded to with a quick smile, trying to reassure her that everything was okay. He didn’t want to involve her in this matter. It wouldn’t be fair to burden her with the knowledge when she could do nothing with it. And it wouldn’t surprise Arthur either if she would choose to agree with Elyan over him.
Arthur excused himself early, saying that he had already had too much to drink and didn’t want to waste tomorrow with a headache. However, instead of going to his chambers, Arthur went to the stables, where he found a suitable horse, which he saddled up, and attached the small bag of coins as well as food he had taken from the feast - food he hoped would last the soon escaped prisoner all the way back to his family.
Getting the prisoner out of the cells was actually the easiest part of it all. There was a, somewhat, secret exit of which Arthur had the only key, so all Arthur had to do was enter the dungeons as he normally would, inform the guards that he wished to speak to the prisoner one last time, and have them leave the general vicinity.
Once alone by the cell, Arthur let the man go, and gave him the key to the exit, which would lead the man to the gate which lead into the lower town. There Arthur would meet him again and help him get completely out of the city.
Arthur faked having a conversation with the prisoner for about five minutes before leaving the dungeons the same way he came, hoping that in the dark of the night, the guards wouldn’t immediately realize that the prisoner was no longer there. When Arthur met up with the man and the warning bell still hadn’t rung, Arthur counted himself extremely lucky (only because he would otherwise have to deem their security lackluster at best).
Now they just had to sneak the man all the way out of Camelot… with a horse. That was the hard part.
“I made you a promise, my lord,” the man began, as Arthur had filled him in on the problem at hand, “That I would not use my magic to harm this kingdom, but I could use it to escape with. I promise no one will be harmed.”
Arthur studied the man for a bit, the sincerity still dripping off of him despite the truth serum’s effect being long gone. He nodded his approval: “Do what you can.”
The man took the horse by the reigns and put his hand on its muzzle, as he spoke a few words which Arthur could not understand, but recognized as words of the old religion. Words used for magic. The man’s eyes glowed gold for a second as the spell set in, and he repeated it once again, holding his hand to his own chest. Arthur failed to see what the spell had done.
“What did you do?” He asked curiously. Normally, when faced with sorcerers, they tried to kill him, and Arthur didn’t have much time to process and understand how their magic worked. He mostly just focused on not dying. Who could really blame him for that? But in a situation like this, Arthur let his curiosity take hold.
“A spell of discretion,” the man explained, “As long as I do not draw attention to myself, I can pass by unnoticed. It was the same way I got into the city. Although I can only hope that my ride stays silent as we pass by,” the man ran his fingers through the horse’s mane, soothing it, possibly praying that nothing would go wrong.
“Good luck,” Arthur said, not wanting to waste any time, “This is as far as I can come with you.”
“Thank you, young prince,” the sorcerer said, “It has been a pleasure getting to know you. I look forward to the day you will be king, and I shall return to your kingdom, gladly.”
The sorcerer took off, while Arthur turned back towards the castle. He had only just reached his chambers when the warning bell rang, and he could only smile victoriously, knowing that their prisoner would be long gone.
My Shot - Arthur Pendragon
Fic #3 of the Hamilton Prompts
Song: My Shot
You woke up to the sunlight shining in your eyes, which was confusing for two reasons. One: usually one of the servants woke you up before then. Two: Arthur wasn’t in bed next to you. He always got you up when he did. He was in the room, however. You could hear him changing behind the screen. You picked up your pillow and threw it at the screen. It knocked over and Arthur shouted.
“What the hell?” he asked, poking his head out. You shrugged and smirked at him. He shook his head and was clearly trying to fight off the smile growing on his face.
“Good morning,” he said, walking out from behind the screen. He pulled his shirt over his head, so you only got a glimpse of his abs.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“I wanted to watch you sleep.” You snorted. “I also was waiting for this to arrive.” Merlin stepped in and handed Arthur a rather large box. Merlin waited there, an eager smile on his face until Arthur shot him a look. You gigged as Merlin walked away.
“What’s that?” you asked.
“For you,” Arthur said, walking towards the bed. He sat down on the bed and handed you the box. You twisted your lips and studied him.
“I can’t just by something because I love you?”
“No, you can and that’s a very kind thought, but I can’t help but wonder what your ulterior motives are.” Arthur looked at you plainly, clearly trying to show you that he was being honest.
Normally, you wouldn’t be this demanding when Arthur did something sweet, but you two hadn’t been getting along so well lately. Arthur was challenged to a duel with a man who had already killed four knights. You begged Arthur not to take it up, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said if you didn’t like it you didn’t have to be there.
Ever since then, he had been trying to make up for that exchange.
“Well thank you,” you said, lifting the lid off to reveal a gorgeous green gown. “Oh, Arthur, it’s gorgeous.” You leaned forward and hugged him. Arthur held on to your back firmly and didn’t let go for a longer time than usual. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said after kissing you. “You’ll wear it today?”
“Sure.” He grinned and stood up.
“Good. I’ll see you a little later, okay?” You nodded and he was gone, off to a meeting with some of his knights.
You had changed into the gown and had spent time helping out Gauis. A week earlier, a village on the far side of the kingdom had lost all of their crops in a large fire, so you were housing them and healing the burn victims. However, it was past noon now and you hadn’t eaten anything yet. You expected to find Arthur in the throne room to invite him to lunch with you, but as you were walking back towards the castle, your attention was drawn by a sword fight.
More accurately, your attention was drawn by a sparring between the knights. This was odd because they usually trained in the morning, not the afternoon. You walked towards them, finding that Arthur was facing Gwaine right now. You stood next to Elyan who smiled over at you.
“Hello, Y/N,” he said. A second later, his smile fell and everyone looked over at you. Arthur and Gwaine even stopped fighting. Arthur pulled off his helmet and looked at you.
“What are you doing here?”
“Am I not allowed?” you asked, looking around nervously.
“No. Of course you are, we were just-”
“Busy,” Gwaine said. You looked over at him and he smiled.
“Busy training?” you asked. He nodded and your head snapped back to Arthur. “I thought we were past this,” you said. He rolled his eyes and walked towards the other side of the field. He took a drink, but you didn’t stop looking at him. “Arthur.”
“Now’s not the time.”
“When would you like to talk about this? Later today when you’re slain.”
“I’m not going to die!” he yelled. Your face hardened and you shook your head. Now it made sense why he had given you the dress. You continued to shake your head to stop yourself from screaming or crying and walked towards the castle. “Y/N. Wait.”
You didn’t. You were already inside when Arthur finally did catch up to you. He grabbed onto your arm when you didn’t turn around, but still you pulled your arm away.
“Y/N, please,” he said. You sighed. You were already half way up the stairs. You caved and looked at him.
“I didn’t want to hide this from you.”
“I don’t know how you thought you could have. I live here, too.”
“I know. It was foolish of me to try.” You sighed and smiled a little. “But I have to do this.”
“No you don’t.” He sighed and sat down on the steps, putting his head in his hands.
“You don’t understand.” You mimicked his movements and sat next to him. You scooted closer until your knees were touching.
“Explain it to me. What don’t I understand?” He looked up at you and you nodded once, encouraging him.
“It’s time that I prove myself to the people. Not just a handful of them, and not just with my name.”
“Arthur, you’ve already done that.”
“On a small scale. But with this tournament, I could finally prove myself to them.”
“But you won’t get to prove anything to them if you die.”
“You don’t have any faith in me.”
“Yes I do,” you said, taking his hand in yours. “But I also care about you and love you. I don’t want to watch you kill yourself just to prove something you don’t have to. You’re already a great king, Arthur, you don’t have to do anything extra. Just wait, the-”
“I’m past patiently waiting, Y/N! I’m going to passionately smash every expectation set on me. Every action I take is an act of creation. I’m laughing in the face of casualties and sorrow, for the first time, I’m thinking past tomorrow.”
“So am I. I’m thinking about a tomorrow without you.”
“Think about a tomorrow with a better king.”
“You already are a better king than you were yesterday. I already imagine you like that.”
“I’m not throwing away my shot, Y/N,” he said finally. You frowned and looked down at your entwined hands.
“I know.” You released his hand and stood up. He looked up at you hopefully as you walked up the stairs. You went into your room, and Arthur didn’t follow. You sat there for a long time until it was nearly tournament time.n;t
Although every fiber of your body was telling you not to go, you went. You found Merlin and had him bring you to the tent where Arthur was getting ready in. He looked surprised to see you, but still smiled.
“Hi,” you said.
“Hi. Could you give us a minute?” he asked Merlin. He nodded and scooted out of the tent.
“Need help?” you asked, already walking forward to tighten his armor. He stood still as you worked, and smiled when you pulled away.
“Thank you. I didn’t think you were coming.”
“Of course I came.” You held your breath as you looked at him. He frowned a little and you immediately ran into his arms. It was hard to hug him like this. Arthur was muscular, but he was soft and warm to hug. Every part of his body would curl and form into yours - yet, in this armor, he was hard and closed off. That didn’t stop you from holding on tight.
“I love you,” he said.
“And I believe in you,” you whispered. He hugged you tighter, which you didn’t think was possible. A horn sounded from outside, signaling that it was time for the match. “Time to take your shot,” you said. He nodded. “Good luck.”
You walked out to the stands and took a seat. You watched as Arthur walked out onto the field, and waited for the other night. You felt your breath catch in your throat when you saw him, and tried to remember how hard and cold Arthur felt when you hugged him. No one could hurt something like that, you told yourself.
You watched in horror as they fought, each blow making you flinch. Near the end, you were sure you were about to watch the love of your life die, but the knight’s sword slipped magically and Arthur delivered a killer blow. The crowd went insane, but you couldn’t scream. In fact, you felt like crying.
Arthur pulled off his helmet and nodded at you first. You nodded back and you could see him sigh. Arthur rose up, and he would continue to rise up.